In 2021 Lalu Thomas was one among the several non-resident Indians who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though he started farming, the Thalavoor resident wanted something unique and the result is La Bae, a mushroom infused coffee brand developed with the help of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Sadanandapuram.
“During COVID-19 we saw a huge demand for healthy food products and I decided to explore the possibilities. Rich in fiber and antioxidents, mushrooms have more minerals compared to vegetables and fruits. It’s the first mushroom coffee powder from Kerala,” says Mr.Thomas. The nutritional value and shelf life of the mushroom coffee was evaluated at the laboratories of Council for Food Research and Development (CFRD) and Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI).
Organic AAA grade arabica coffee directly sourced from the farmers in Wayanad is used for the product. Powder of five different types of mushrooms is the other ingredient. Oyster, milky, lion’s mane, turkey tail and chaga are the varieties used for their specific health benefits. Compared to other products available in India, La Bae is different, he adds. “Similar products avaialble in market have a bitter taste and we wanted to retain the familiar taste and aroma of coffee while infusing it with the nutritional benefits of mushrooms. We wanted the original flavour of coffee to dominate and the chicory content in our product is zero. Chicory can cause acidity and our aim is a complete healthy food.”
Thomas’ farm has the capacity to produce only 10 kg of coffee and KVK is planning to rope in more farmers and form clusters in various parts to promote mushroom cultivation. “You need 10 kg fresh produce for one kg dried mushroom. KVK will provide the spawns and training for the farmers and the mushroom will be procured from them for making value added products,” he says. Mr.Thomas adds that the biggest challenge faced by mushroom farmers is its short shelf life and products like La Bae will help them to overcome the hurdle. “Value added products are the only solution that will ensure a steady income to the farmers. It will also help us to provide the product at very reasonable rates,” he says.