Whereas working as a chef within the United Arab Emirates, launching a startup was by no means on Lalu Thomas’ thoughts. However making a value-added meals product was. By the point he accomplished 15 years within the UAE, the 45-year-old began feeling homesick and wished to return to his hometown Kollam in Kerala.
“I misplaced my job in 2019, which is once I determined to return again for good and begin my very own enterprise in India,” Lalu tells The Higher India.
On returning to Kerala, Lalu initially determined to take up mushroom farming which had been his mom’s interest throughout his childhood.
“I began rising mushrooms however quickly discovered that it was not worthwhile in any respect. We dwell in a distant space in Kollam the place there isn’t a lot of a demand for mushrooms. Additionally, it was not likely what I had in thoughts as my marketing strategy, however I used to be positive I might do one thing within the meals trade,” he remembers.
In quest of concepts, he reached out to Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Kollam and appealed to do analysis with them.
“I spoke to lots of the researchers on the Krishi Kendra, they usually too recommended that I create a value-added product that’s distinctive and new. There was a variety of brainstorming, however I used to be fairly fixated on making use of my farm-grown mushrooms. I recommended mushroom soups at first, however the thought was turned down as a result of whereas there’s a large marketplace for them, there are a variety of manufacturers promoting the identical product,” he says.
It was then that Lalu mulled over the concept of tapping into Malayalis’ love of drinks — particularly tea and occasional. And this concept was the inception of his fusion meals startup Chef Bae, which launched in November 2022. Underneath its aegis, Lalu has additionally launched a singular brew — La Bae, which is made with mushroom-infused espresso powder.
Like an everyday cup of joe, however with an additional edge
“I had heard about mushroom-infused drinks, however by no means explored the concept myself. We began out with tea, nevertheless it didn’t work out the way in which we wished, so we zeroed in on espresso. With the assistance of researchers at KVK, I used to be in a position to good a singular mix — the mushroom espresso,” Lalu says.
Mushroom-infused espresso is a mix of powdered mushroom and occasional, which makes for a darkish, clean and unique brew. Whereas the flavour of the mix is much like common espresso, many customers have reported it to have an ‘earthy’ style.
Mushroom espresso can be utilized to make scrumptious mochas and lattes, however Lalu suggests boiling the powder in sizzling water with out including milk or sugar to benefit from the flavour to the fullest.
Consider it as your common espresso, however with the additional fringe of being more healthy, experiences Healthline.
“We use 5 sorts of mushrooms — taiga, oyster, turkey tail, spawn and milky — that are collected, cleaned and dried utilizing solar-powered machines, earlier than being chopped and floor to powder. That is added to the espresso, which provides a really distinctive texture to the drink. It might style just about like common espresso at first, however depart a refined trace of mushroom on the finish,” he says.
However the means of perfecting the mix wasn’t straightforward, and it took Lalu two years to provide you with the proper proportions of mushroom espresso.
“In each packet, 70 % can be mushroom powder and 30 % espresso powder. We use one hundred pc Arabica espresso with out chicory, which is often added to the espresso powder,” he explains. “The mushrooms are sourced from our personal farms and in addition bought from Maharashtra. We don’t have espresso plantations, so we get the espresso from Wayanad.”
The dietary worth and shelf lifetime of the mushroom espresso had been later evaluated on the laboratories of the Council for Meals Analysis and Improvement (CFRD).
“Since we don’t use preservatives, our espresso’s shelf life is 12 months. Mushroom espresso is a extra sustainable supply of caffeine than common espresso, because the power increase is slower and extra long-lasting. Some folks additionally declare that mushroom espresso helps them really feel extra centered and alert, with out the jitters or crashes usually related to common espresso,” Lalu explains.
How good is mushroom espresso?
A mix of mushrooms and occasional will not be solely a delight to your style buds however has quite a few well being advantages as properly, as per a Way of life Asia report. Quoting Dr Bindiya Gandhi, a double board-certified integrative and household medication doctor, they clarify, “Mushroom espresso is actually espresso with mushrooms — not simply common mushrooms, however medicinal, adaptogenic mushrooms that assist with power, focus, and stamina. So that you get caffeine with out the jitters which regularly impression your cortisol [the hormone associated with stress] manufacturing.”
Lalu notes, “Research recommend that mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties and might help in relieving stress and promote higher sleep. Sure varieties of mushrooms have immunity-boosting properties, particularly varieties like Chaga. Espresso can also be an excellent supply of antioxidants, so a mixture of the 2 makes an amazing well being drink.”
La Bea is making ready to hit the nationwide and worldwide markets within the coming months. “The product is present process packing and manufacturing, and can be out there on the market in India by March 2023. We can be delivery it to the UAE as properly. In India, will probably be out there on e-commerce websites like Amazon and in sure retail shops too,” Lalu says.
In the meantime, Lalu’s thirst for fusion meals may be very a lot alive. Ask him about his future plans and he says, “I’ve concepts for extra of such distinctive fusion merchandise with mushrooms — mushroom honey, mushroom chocolate, mushroom cookies, and so forth. Mushrooms are very versatile and wholesome, so we wish to discover as many potentialities as we are able to.”
Edited by Asha Prakash