The Wake N Bake Café at the CanJam Retreat has been keeping ‘heads high’ in Negril’s West End for the past few years.
The prominently displayed, chalk-written sign at the front of the café is hard to miss. “Ganja cookies, ganja brownies, ganja popcorn, ganja milkshake,” the sign reads.
The café, which is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., is as immaculate as it is inviting with hilarious signs inside and outside of the building. And it is as Jamaican as it gets with a strong Rastafari influence. It is the brainchild of Karen McLeod, a Canadian woman who has made Jamaica her adopted home, after falling in love with the island the first day she set foot on its shores in 2010.
McLeod has been cooking with cannabis in Canada for years, having worked in the catering business since she was an adolescent. However, she first made pastries from ganja while in Jamaica during her second visit to the island. That visit lasted for 12 weeks at a condo at Point Village, and during that time she explored the beaches, ate ton-loads of Jamaican fruits and interacted with scores of Jamaicans.
“I had a couple edibles and said: ‘this doesn’t cut it’. And I gathered everything I needed to make my canna-butter. I used to make cannabis butter, so I figured out a way to make some of that butter from real dairy butter and weed. You infuse butter with it and then you bake with the butter,” she explained.
She said that she made a batch of the canna-butter and cookies and borrowed other necessary items from a Rastaman she had met.
After returning the items, she also left some of the pastries for the man who wasn’t there at the time. “When I went back and was coming down the beach, he saw me coming and he started jumping up and down, and he said: ‘you are the best since Miss Jenny’. I knew I was on to something when I impressed a Jamaican.”
McLeod then began making cookies which persons would resell on the beach. She would later offer other types of food.
“All the time I have chocolate brownies, coconut cake, ginger cookies, popcorn and milkshakes. If people come and would like some ganja tea, we will make it for them,” she said.
—Article written by Claudia Gardner