Arts restaurant review

A cafe with coffee, cookies, and… CBD lattes?

NOCA Provisions combines trend with taste

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CBD oil is dropped into a latte.

NOCA Provisions
Cafe, $$
156 Rindge Ave, Cambridge MA 02140
Monday–Friday 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
8 a.m. opening on weekends

Nestled in a cozy corner of Porter Square’s residential neighborhood, NOCA Provisions couldn’t be a more fitting environment for a slow afternoon paired with a steaming cup of coffee. Honeyed sunlight flows through the wide cafe windows onto the wood-paneled tables, kindling the type of calm that every cafe strives for.

Among freshly made oat parfaits, an assortment of baked goods, and a daily menu selection, what stands out are their unique lattes. While other cafes might tout organic and local ingredients, NOCA Provisions also offers a special ingredient to their drinks — CBD, short for cannabidiol.

NOCA Provision’s wellness menu has two seasonal drinks containing this compound, one turmeric and another lavender flavored. I tried the former, a vegan turmeric latte made with coconut milk, agave nectar, masala spices, and five milligrams of olive oil-based CBD. Subtly sweet, earthy, and light, the drink pairs perfectly with CBD’s mildly grassy flavor, balanced with cinnamon and a slight kick from cayenne. It makes sense that a specialty ingredient like CBD could raise the price of a drink, but without adding any particularly outstanding flavor or rumored “magical” benefits in the immediate moment, it is unlikely I would drop another $10 for this drink again, despite it being an overall enjoyable experience.

From dog treats to body lotions to chocolate truffles, products infused with CBD are praised as a cure-all miracle elixir. While CBD is derived from the marijuana plant, it is marketed as a non-psychoactive corrective to the ills of intoxication. It will not cause the user to get “high,” unlike its famous cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), also found in marijuana. With the sudden popularity of CBD exploding in the past year, it has transformed from a compound used at the margins of society to the cultural center, with some referring to it as the new avocado toast. However, to simply refer to it as a millennial obsession would be false. CBD is now considered a remedy to anxiety and pain according to a small, but growing body of research. According to Dr. Esther Blessing, an assistant medical professor at New York University, “CBD is the most promising [remedy] for neuropsychiatric diseases in the last 50 years.” However, many professionals and politicians still question the thin line between hype and science as to the true benefits of CBD, as much of its research is in its infancy. From a substance criminalized decades ago to one legalized and revered by society now, CBD is confusing, to say the least. The move towards the legalization of hemp products seems to be less about removing the stigma of cannabis than about its economic benefits.

Sipping the latte, I had a sense of guilt. In the picturesque serenity of the cafe, sip after sip of soothing spiced drink calmed my sore winter throat, yet it felt like a flimsy bandaid on a wound within. I couldn’t help but think of the thousands still jailed for minor marijuana-related infractions, specifically those marginalized — people of color and those from disadvantaged socioeconomic communities — while wellness influencers now proudly amplify CBD’s benefits through aesthetic Instagram photos. Was I simply another one of these privileged people, drinking an expensive latte to write about it?