Top-shelf cannabis: What makes it premium?

Top-shelf cannabis can be categorized in a lot of different ways. Use this info to sort out premium from sub-par.

We all appreciate the finer things in life. An aged single malt scotch, a fine Belgian chocolate, or a Japanese wagyu steak. They all lead the way in product quality. And top-shelf cannabis is no different. 

While regulations in the legal market ensure that the cannabis products we buy are both safe and clean, there are cultivators and retailers that centre their business model around delivering high-end products. By combining seasoned cannabis genetics, refined agricultural methods, and a deep understanding of what customers want, these producers are redefining premium cannabis.

The top-shelf cannabis difference

While there’s no official standard, cannabis is generally classified as low tier, mid tier, or top shelf. Across the legal market, you might have exposure to varying degrees of quality—but some retailers (both legacy and new to the industry) have dedicated themselves to delivering a premium experience. In Eden’s case, we do this by building strong relationships with producers that are committed to providing excellent products and testing them to ensure our customers only have access to the very best.

High-quality cannabis starts with best in class genetics. For decades, growers have been selectively breeding cannabis plants, emphasizing promising qualities with every generation. This agricultural commitment to refining the plant has led to massive developments in the average quality of consumer-grade cannabis. Now, with the legal market open, growers have been given access to larger-scale operations and technologies designed to streamline breeding and production.

The truth is, the best strains in the world won’t amount to much without the right tools and growing environment. Like with all plants, cannabis needs particular growing conditions to thrive. This can include closely monitored light cycles and other settings that cater to the plant’s particular genetics and stage of growth. It also includes the use of effective nutrients and supplements, optimally controlled temperature, and more. On top of that, the environment should be set up to protect the product from molds, pests, and contaminants that would otherwise compromise quality. 

High-end growers may choose to trim plants by hand rather than by machine, resulting in better looking buds with intact trichomes. They also skip out on irradiation—a process that kills molds and pathogens and is common in the industry. While this is considered safe and legal, it can negatively affect the flavour of the product. As such, high end growers take great pains to maintain completely sterile environments for their plants, making the process unnecessary.

Producing top-shelf cannabis is a complex and cost- and labour-intensive process—but trust us, the results speak for themselves.

Make use of your senses

As a conscious consumer, you want to be equipped to select high-quality product. And as you explore which strains make sense for you, there are a number of things you can do to identify where the product sits on the cannabis quality scale.


The most important sense to use when judging the quality of a cannabis product is smell. Cannabis can smell earthy, sweet, spicy, floral, citric, or piney depending on the strain, but what’s important is that it should have a rich, bold aroma. In the store, each jar should be easily distinguishable by a distinctive smell profile. Little to no smell could indicate that the bud has been stored for too long or not cured properly.


The best cannabis bud can be easily recognized on sight by its distinctive ‘frosty’ surface. This frost is made of trichomes, tiny glands that contain the active cannabinoids and terpenes which give cannabis its smell and flavour. Colourwise, cannabis varies, but it should mostly be a vibrant green rather than brown. Certain strains may also be adorned with contrasting orange pistils or purple highlights in the buds. For the most part, strong colour is a good sign of high quality.


There’s nothing quite like a puff of fresh high-end cannabis. It’s smooth, flavourful, and has a lasting impact. It shouldn’t taste green like chlorophyll, and the ash should be clean and white. As products become more available, there’s a growing number of consumers that are developing a more discerning palate—and they want top-shelf cannabis to match. 

Come have a taste. Check out Eden Empire’s stores across British Columbia. 

Photos: HQuality / Shutterstock, Roxana Gonzalez / Shutterstock