This Kerala village bets big on mushroom coffee brand

This Kerala village bets big on mushroom coffee brand

 Lalu Thomas at his farm in rural Thalavoor.

Lalu Thomas at his farm in rural Thalavoor.

Entering a niche market is no easy task, especially when you are operating from rural Thalavoor. But that did not stop Lalu Thomas from launching La Bae, perhaps the first mushroom coffee brand from Kerala developed with the support of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra.

Though the product has been introduced in export and online markets without any air-tight business plan, its monthly turnover has crossed Rs 1 lakh in a couple of months. And now, the success of the small business has prompted the Thalavoor panchayat to come up with ‘Koon Gramam’, a project to extend mushroom cultivation in the area. The local body has started training around 100 farmers to cultivate mushroom that will be procured for the production of La Bae.

“We have set aside funds for the project and most of our beneficiaries are women. Mushroom cultivation is easier compared with other crops and through this project we aim to attain self-sufficiency in production,” says V.S. Kaladevi, panchayat president.

Around five varieties, button, oyster, milky, lion’s mane and turkey tail, are used for manufacturing mushroom coffee along with organic arabica coffee bean from Wayanad.

“Since it’s an organic product rich in antioxidants, our customers are people who want to increase diet quality and stay healthy. While similar products available in the market use one or two mushrooms only, La Bae blends different varieties handpicked for their distinctive health benefits. While lion’s mane is a cognitive enhancer, sun-dried oyster mushroom contains a lot of vitamin D and turkey tail is good for bone health. It’s completely organic with zero fillers, preservatives, or artificial additives,” says Lalu Thomas.

Lalu Thomas in his farm in rural Thalavoor.

Lalu Thomas in his farm in rural Thalavoor.

The produce from his farm is not sufficient for the required volume of coffee powder and often the raw material is sourced from other parts.

“Lion’s mane and turkey tail are not cultivated here as we need to maintain lower temperatures in the farm. But now we are trying to produce them locally and the farmers will be trained in various methods,” he adds.

La Bae is listed on Amazon and Mr. Thomas says it is the most sought-after product in the category. “At first we were targeting the export market only and we are yet to explore the domestic market.”

The entrepreneur and the panchayat are also planning to introduce other value-added products including mushroom chocolate and mushroom cookies. “Our second product, mushroom coffee with milk, is in the last stages of R&D and it will be launched in the market soon,” he says.

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