Mellows: Puff-less Puffies Put the ‘Baked’ in Baked Goods
A newspaper clipping with a photo of a young man dressed in a chef’s toque and preparing food with a giant cleaver hangs over Stephanie Hua in her kitchen. The photo, which first appeared in the Jan. 28, 1970, edition of Newsday, is of Hua’s grandfather, Antonio Lee, in his New York restaurant.
“Food is in my blood a little bit,” she says, and when asked about the food her family made growing up the stories flow. Hua was trained at the San Francisco Cooking School, and previously ran her own food blog, too. “Thanksgiving every year was a running joke, because my grandfather would basically cook every animal except for turkey. We would have a 10-course meal, and it would be this incredible mish-mash of Chinese dishes as well as the things that had to be there because it was Thanksgiving.”
Her childhood days always ended with a balanced meal served piping hot by her mother, who is a talented cook, as well. “Cooking is sort of our love language,” she says.
But food isn’t Stephanie’s only passion. She loves cannabis, too, and she has fused her passion for baking and getting baked with her gourmet edible marshmallow brand, Mellows. For Hua, combining the culinary and cannabis worlds seems meant-to-be. “Food people are just some of the most generous, loving people that you’ll ever meet, and the only rival to the generosity of food people is weed people,” she says.
The brand has three core goals of destigmatizing, normalizing, and elevating cannabis, and to do so, sells low-dose, aesthetically pleasing marshmallows in a sweet assorted box. The Mellows come in flavors like Birthday Cake, Chocolate Malt, Cookies & Cream, and S’Mores, and are decorated with everything from sprinkles to sesame seeds.
Better yet, the sweets are hand-crafted from seed to sale in San Francisco. The infusion is made with solventless, ice water hash from Gold Seal SF’s Red Congolese — a clear-headed landrace strain which, especially when grown by this brand, has become a highly-coveted smoke for the canna-connoisseur. Then, Stephanie and her small team hand decorate and wrap each individual mellow in a cute cupcake-style paper wrapper for consumption.
“We wanted to destigmatize cannabis and really make something that was so beautiful that you’d want to gift it to mom or grandma, or bring to a dinner party, and not feel like it was taboo,” says Hua. She says that’s why she went with a low 5 mg dose per ’mallow, too — so that Mellows could be a safe, approachable introduction to new consumers dipping their toes into the edible scene. When she created the company in 2015, edibles were commonly 20-50 mg a dose, rather than the 10 mg per-dose maximum now codified by California cannabis laws. “It was just too much — I would never want to send my mom an edible that was 25 mg,” she says. However, she is working on a 100 mg marshmallow product for higher-tolerance consumers.
For Hua, Mellows is about more than her two interests of culinary arts and quality cannabis: it’s an expression of her whole being. Flavors like black sesame, inspired by her mom’s own tangyuan, and a recipe for cannabis-infused black sesame cupcakes she published in 2018, sneak their way into limited-edition sweets. As a devoted ice cream lover, her strawberry shortcake flavor is made to mimic the outer coating of a strawberry shortcake Good Humor bar. Her favorite dishes, she says, are attached to her favorite “food memories.”
Her progressive politics mark the brand’s social media, too. Proudly WOC-owned and operated, Hua is frequently advocating for anti-racism and equity in the industry and our city more broadly through the company’s platforms. She’s also a proud #cannamom, who believes cannabis should be treated with the same safety precautions as alcohol in the family home rather than kept as a dirty little secret. Showing the diverse faces of cannabis can demonstrate that it’s a substance used by everyday people — not criminals, or lazy teens. It’s about “knocking down that stoner stigma,” she says.
San Francisco, a hub of decades-long cannabis activism and a sought-after food destination, serves as the perfect home base for doing just that. Not only is she inspired by the region’s best cultivators, she’s also inspired by local chefs and farmers. The two industries share a similar passion for their craft according to Hua, reaching for the same “oohs and ahhs,” one gets when they present a stunning dessert at the end of a meal.
“To be able to bridge those two worlds, here in San Francisco, the birthplace of medical cannabis, is a really unique opportunity as an edible maker that I’m grateful to pursue,” she says.