Functional drinks are the hot topic this month. Every day, we seem to come across a new brand or start-up launching a new beverage, containing new and interesting ingredients. Our recent find is no different. Hailing from New York, this new start-up called ChugaChaga are just about to launch “the world’s first organic, 100% wild-harvested chaga iced tea”. We spoke to CEO Luke Evans about the product, how they created it and the health benefits of chaga.
Tell us about ChugaChaga – what inspired it?
Growing up as a chef a mile from the site of 69 Woodstock, I was exposed to a variety of cultures and foods. While in tenth grade my mentor, who was curious about chaga, asked me if I knew where any large birch trees grew. I knew just the spot, Walnut Mountain. After some hiking we eventually found the king of medicinal mushrooms, chaga. From the moment I laid eyes on it I knew that it would change my life. However the real revelations came when I first brewed it into a tea. I was amazed by its great taste and its health benefits. Even more to my surprise was that no one knew about it. That’s when I decided to make a consumer-ready product anyone could enjoy.
What are the health benefits of chaga mushrooms?
Chaga is a powerful adaptogen so it allows the body to deal with stress in a healthy manner. It is also rich in beta glucans, which help modulate your immune system. Chaga is also high in antioxidants on the ORAC scale. We recommend using it as a daily elixir to harness the benefits.
Where do you source the mushrooms from and how do you process them?
We have foragers that hand-harvest the fungus throughout Canada and Alaska. Once removed from the tree the chaga has to be dried out and further broken down, which is a difficult process because of how hard and dense it is. Before being extracted, it is further broken down into the right particle size for optimal extraction.
Luke first discovered the value of chaga mushrooms when he was growing up.
What challenges did you face when creating the beverage?
Being a college student start-up, we didn’t have any industry recourses to guide us in the right direction. It was a learning curve of how to raise capital and where we need to deploy it. Developing our scheduled process took about a year and a half between consumer testing and consulting with food scientists.
How are you working to fulfil your sustainability goals?
Sustainability is a core tenet of our company’s mission, affecting all aspects of our supply chain. In regard to our chaga supply, we solely use ethical foragers that employ strict harvesting practices. Alongside our attention to supply is our first product line, Tree Tea, where for every bottle of tea produced one tree will be planted. Together with the support of our customers we will plant a forest.
Tell us about your involvement with the food business accelerator programme Food-X – how has it helped your company?
Food-X and SOSV have been great for exposing us to all the right people and resources. Their network of mentors has been extremely useful for pointing right direction. While in the Food-X program we had the opportunity to work closely with many other cutting edge food businesses that we’re facing many of the same problems we were. Having an open forum for discussion helps jumpstart our growth.
When and where will ChugaChaga be available for purchase?
ChugaChaga will be available at various health food stores, co-ops, and speciality grocers in the tri-state region [New York, New Jersey and Connecticut] this spring.
The global market for functional waters increased by 12% last year and is ever growing. Why do you think this is?
People are not just looking for beverages that are refreshing anymore. Everyone from the professional athlete to the working professional is looking for products to enhance their performance now.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019