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Apr 13, 2021
Emerald Cup, SC Labs Partner To Use Terpene Data For Judging

For the first time, The Emerald Cup, California’s longest-running and most prestigious cannabis competition, is testing and sorting flower entries into categories using terpene data as part of the judging process. This year, SC Labs, who has been the testing partner of the Emerald Cup for 11 years, has tested all of the Cup’s flower entries and created profiles that detail the chemical properties of each cannabis varietal with a focus on terpenes. Terpenes are compounds that are predominantly responsible for the unique aromas and flavors in cannabis, but also contribute to the effects felt by the user along with the pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the cannabinoids.

SC Labs terpene groups
With wide variability in terpenoid composition, SC Labs finds that each cannabis varietal generally falls into one of six primary terpene groups.

Both The Emerald Cup and SC Labs hope that this new data-driven approach will provide a greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity and range of cannabis chemistry and chemotypes. Through this year’s sorting process, judges will be rating similar terpene profiles against each other to choose the best-of-class for each, much like how wines are judged in similar events.

“Cannabis consumers have often solely looked to THC content as the primary indicator of quality. Terpene content is the other half of the equation,” said Alec Dixon, co-founder and director of client relations. “Historic Emerald Cup data has shown year after year that the judges’ picks and winners have never had anything to do with THC content when compared to the averages, but winners consistently test much higher in terpene content than the rest of the field. The real quantitative quality marker in cannabis is terpene concentration.”

The 2021 Emerald Cup entries were placed into categories based on one of six primary terpene groups, color coded and anonymized prior to being given to judges. The six primary terpene groups are: Myrcene, β-Caryophyllene, Limonene, Terpinolene, a-Pinene, and β-Ocimene groups. Each primary group contains approximately 2-3 subgroups, based upon primary and secondary terpene content. These account for about 12 archetypal profiles that define the range of aroma, flavor, and the “entourage effects” that the cannabis plant has to offer. The term entourage effect is used to describe the unique effects from one cannabis varietal to the next caused by the unique blend of bioactive ingredients.

“The Emerald Cup is revolutionizing the cannabis judging process by categorizing entries by terpene content. This aids the judges in narrowing in on the winners and honoring the best chemotypes of each of these primary terpene classes,” said Dixon.

Judges have been trained on this new sorting process and how this cannabis classification works to aid them in their process of identification and correlation of the spectrum of terpene profiles found in cannabis. This will include how to identify rare versus more common terpene profiles among entries. Tim Blake, founder of The Emerald Cup, hopes this new process will further legitimize the competition. “We’re excited to empower our judges with the proper tools so The Emerald Cup can uphold the integrity of our process and our brand,” he said.

SC Labs has been focused on terpene research in cannabis for more than a decade. With hundreds of thousands of cannabis chemotypes analyzed, the company has been able to obtain insights into patterns and market trends that provide valuable data to their customers. Demonstrating a commitment to make this data actionable, SC Labs has categorized and contextualized each entrant’s result report data providing meaningful tools to better evaluate and judge product quality.




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