Champelli Trees | Highlights
San Francisco is a city that has brought an intoxicating combination of cannabis culture and cannabis flowers to the world. Long before California passed the world’s first medical marijuana laws in 1996, outlaws (later called militants) in the City by the Bay were growing weed. A longtime bastion of rule breakers and eccentrics of all kinds, San Francisco is where a young Joe Rutherford first learned to grow weed through a skylight in the pantry of the Bernal Heights family home. Today it is better known as Champelli, named after the strain he bred and popularized in the 90s. The smoke circle is small, the hash is potent, and we’re in San Francisco when Champelli explains how he’s back in town after a hiatus. almost ten years spent evading the law overseas. He rebuilt his brand and, with Neil Dellacava of Chronic Culturehosting a dinner party the next day that features the most decadent trend in weed smoking: 2 grams of flower and 0.5 grams of rosin burning at the same time, hash holes.
“Grass has always made something out of nothing,” Champelli says. “We are growing a plant and now all of a sudden you might get money for the factory or help some people with their condition. It’s just kind of a gift of sorts.
Whether in language, style, design, technology or activism, many of the world’s most impactful creations (and types of cannabis) were born in San Francisco Bay Area garages. Champelli’s brand includes his history producing music with Bay Area legends like Mac Dre including him in a shoutout to his 2004 track “She Neva Seen.”
She only sees me, with European keys
She only sees me, with wood grain Sprees
She only sees me, with Champelli trees
She only sees me, having hella G
Mac Dre and other artists rapped about Champelli weed, essentially marketing and marketing “cannabis as it was legal in a sense through music,” says Champelli.
When I ask Champelli, or Pelli, to start over from the beginning, he brings me back to his earliest weed memories. Lighting up a joint of one of his latest flower offerings, Cassis, at a bar table across from Dellacava, he recalls being in his older brother’s coffeeshop in Amsterdam: the sounds of Bob Marley, the smell hashish smoke, the vision of a cupboard full of balls of black Lebanese hash strewn across the ceiling.
The youngest of five brothers (there is a 15-year gap between him and his closest older sibling), Champelli spent time growing up at his brother’s home in Amsterdam. Her parents are both from Long Beach, but the family lived in Mexico in the 1960s, where her father worked as an artist and painter. At the time of the Vietnam War, his family found themselves in Spain, buying an 1800s oil mill with 400 olive trees in the mountains of southern Spain. Champelli was born in Spain and ended up in San Francisco as a young child with his mother after his parents separated.
He was 7 years old when he experienced the coffeeshop in Amsterdam. He was in middle school when his older brother started growing weed in this San Francisco skylight filled with dishes, climbing cats and other plants. It was also in college that he first sold cannabis herbs and rolled up a cigarette with his friends. At that time, he already had a craving for a smoke, pulling oregano wrapped in bookbinding paper, and finding yarrow flowers growing in the hills. He started growing up in this skylight, but also taught himself through culture books and Highlights Magazine. He dropped out of high school in 1991 and found an apartment with a friend.
“I made my first foray into the interior in 1991 and made my first $10,000,” he says, explaining that his friend DK had a variety called The Tex that was red and brown and full of seeds. and which still cost $6,000 apiece. pound because of how amazing it was like smoke. DK would buy the seeds back for more weed, but Champelli would save a few and grow them.
At the time, he had long hair and a pit bull that dragged him around on a skateboard. He became one of the characters in San Francisco who sold cannabis. The scene included t-shirts and bumper stickers that read “support your local weed dealer” and Champelli mingled with the likes of a marijuana activist and outlaw Denis Peronselling him weed at the Castro Buyers Club on Market Street.
“I grew up with a lot of older smugglers, dealer types,” Champelli says of his success as a producer. “There were all these older hippies who had just moved tons of different weed from all over the world, basically, whether it was Thai, Colombian or Mexican. And they were big fans of my weed.
In the mid-90s, Champelli made a hip hop compilation. He also bred a strain called Champagne.
“The streets ended up naming me Champelli as an evolution of the name Champagne because I always had the strain and I was known for that strain,” he says. “When I first got it, I was just buying it by the pound, then I got seeds from it.”
Champagne, aka Champelli, is a cross between Burmese and Thai breeds, he explains. It is also the name that Champelli gave to the record company he created in the 90s.
The varieties that Champelli presents at the paired dinner the following evening, Cassis, Super Gremlin and the very popular Lemon Cherry Gelato, are cultivated thanks to its partnerships with growers. In 2022, Champelli is curator of cannabis. It organizes cannabis genetics and taste profiles into hash holes by pairing flower and rosin flavors, Dellacava explains.
“It’s a bit of a game of chess,” Dellacava says of the business model. “But in my opinion, I’d rather play chess than own the whole chessboard. Because personally I owned the whole board and I owe a lot of debt to the board.
“Think of it as the new model now, basically if you look at Amazon, or you look at Uber or you look at Airbnb, they’re just the conduit or the vehicle, so I try to be kind of that,” says Champelli.
Champelli’s past forced him to leave the country on the run from a RICO case, serve time on a federal cannabis charge, and get back on the grass. He was on probation and working as a cook when he first met Berner, the San Francisco rapper who incorporated the Girl Scout Cookies strain into the global Cookies brand. In Champelli’s heyday, it was dangerous to expose yourself publicly. Champelli has never been branded in mylar bags with a logo. He also never included a line of clothes beforebut times have changed and it now operates in a legal adult cannabis market.
The chronic culture present
The next evening at Chronic Culture starts with a bruschetta appetizer and smoke in the upstairs lounge. Next, the group of approximately 40 people head to a large banquet table for a 5-course Italian dinner. There is smoking before the salad is even served and between courses the hash holes come out. Hash holes are large joints with hash rosin directly in the middle. The concept isn’t new, but the name is (they’re also called donuts) and, at this point, they’re a certifiable cannabis growing phenomenon.
Hash holes are status symbols in heady weed circles and, like cigars, have trademark bands around the base. I learn some hashhole smoking tricks before taking a few puffs of cacio and pepe topped with a crispy eggplant. It’s best to hold them straighter, so the hash burns directly in the center and creates that ring of ash around the hole created by the concentrate. If you hold the hash holes down, the rosin can rush forward and ruin the steady burn. It’s also best not to burn the hash holes as much as a regular joint. This keeps the smoke cooler, says Champelli.
Dinner is a smoky party and Champelli doesn’t tell the group as a whole too much. Dellacava steps in to coordinate the announcements as Champelli, wearing dark sunglasses and an all-black outfit, mingles with guests and lets the weed speak for itself.
The cartoccio fishing, Italian for packaged fish, comes with a piece of crispy cabbage on the side. The kale is topped with cannabis-smoked salt, hickory wood paired with Cassis, Gusher Pie crossed with Gelatti, and an unknown third strain. The tight, dense buds are a deep shade of purple and have a layered aroma and flavor of dark, tart berries soaked in gasoline. In 2020, Complex Review named Cassis one of the “best weed to smoke since NYC legalized”. At the chronic culture dinner, one-eighth of it was combined with hickory to smoke the salt. The goal in pairing the black currant infused salt with the crispy kale was to replicate the kind of flavors of a salty and crispy fish skin chef. Xochitl Segura said before taking the salt around the table for an optional second seasoning. My dinner friends take pinches of salt alone. I blow on another hash hole and save room for the tiramisu. Champelli isn’t Italian, but the Italian-themed dinner (with Cassis packaged to adopt the look of Italian S.Pellegrino sparkling water) kicks off a successful cannabis comeback. Maybe the next dinner, he says, will also include olives.