A 45-year-old chef from Kollam in Kerala, who lost his job in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to Covid crisis in 2021, is scripting a new success story in Kerala by launching a unique product. After two years of research with the support of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Kollam, Lalu Thomas has blended mushroom with coffee and his product “La Bae” is all set to hit the international market in the coming days.
Lalu has a tale of hard work and determination that really helped him to resurrect from the crisis which completely debased his life unexpectedly. “I lost my job unexpectedly. Me and my family had to leave the UAE and return to my native place in Thalavoor, Kollam. I was completely clueless about the future. Though I had seen my mother cultivating mushrooms in a small way, I wasn’t sure about its commercial viability. However, I decided to give it a try and started doing mushroom farming at home,” Lalu told “Open Digest”.
It was only when Lalu started marketing mushrooms in the market, he understood the biggest challenge faced by mushroom farmers. “As plucked mushrooms get damaged within one day, we start getting a lot of returns from the market. I was forced to think about a mushroom-based value added product to properly utilise the mushrooms made at my farm. I had earlier heard about a mushroom based health drink and started to work on it. Initially, we planned to develop a mushroom tea but dropped and zeroed in on coffee. The scientists at KVK helped me in successfully developing my product which is rich in fiber, antioxidants and minerals. It also gives a unique blended taste. The nutritional value and shelf life of my product were tested and approved at the laboratory of Council for Food Research and Development (CFRD),” Lalu said, adding that he had already struck a deal with a UAE based company to market the product in the Middle East.
Lalu had invested nearly Rs 10 lakh to set up the manufacturing unit for this new product and the coffee bean “Arabica” for the product is sourced directly from farmers in Wayanad.