In early 2020, we had begun reformulating our Medicinal Mushroom cacao, after we discovered a mushroom supplier that we felt was a 100% perfect match for our brand and vision. And it took us to the most unlikely of places - China. Are you concerned? We were too. But with what we’re about to share with you, you will soon understand why we made the switch. Working with our new partners has flipped our understanding of sourcing medicinal mushrooms, and we’re so confident in this that as soon as the pandemic hit the US, we began ordering pallets of mushrooms from our new supplier to ensure we had a reliable supply to deliver the potent immunity and health benefits our community would be needing.
You won’t notice much of a change in flavor profile, and we’ve already used our new recipe to fulfill some orders. Today, it’ll be going out in all orders. We’ve already heard of customers having positive health and immunity outcomes, and we’re immensely excited to offer you even greater value - despite the increased cost on our end to provide you the absolute best, you’ll notice no difference in your cost - it’s worth it for us to offer you the best quality and sourcing.
Jonas, our founder, has actually traveled to China about a dozen times, the first time when he was in school for his Master's Degree and studying renewable energy systems. China, as one of the largest global consumers of energy, was a fascinating case study, and Jonas toured the country to experience the air pollution in Beijing, a cutting edge solar cell facility in Shanghai, the Three Gorges Dam in Wuhan while it was still under construction, a fluorescent light bulb factory and a coal power plant, and a large wind power installation on the plains of Ürümqi (the Uyghur capital now under surveillance and lockdown). Then he returned many more times to Shenzhen for his pre-cacao career in solar products manufacturing, and as a chocolate maker, he actively works with four different equipment manufacturers to source custom chocolate-making tools at a budget that allows us to stay independent and not require outside investment.
It’s true - Jonas has seen first hand the industrial megalopolises with atrocious levels of pollution impacting the health of the environment and the health of its citizens. Yet, just like the US, China is a massive and diverse country, and there are rural areas still steeped in traditional wisdom and untouched by pollution. This is where, deep in the mountains of China, thousands of small farmers dedicate themselves to the natural cultivation of mushrooms. These are people who are close to the land and understand that food production is a sacred bond with the earth. Mushroom cultivation started in China in the 12th century, and generations of mushroom growers have maintained a continuous cycle of mushroom cultivation so that today, China is responsible for 85% of worldwide mushroom production. Every crop of mushrooms starts with selected strains, cultivars that have been developed over the course of centuries. Hundreds of mushroom research institutes are engaged in continual research and development on high yielding strains of the highest medicinal quality. The photo below is of reishi mushrooms growing in a hoop house on buried logs.
You may not even have heard of medicinal mushrooms 20 years ago (I certainly hadn’t!), and already, our new mushroom suppliers were working with their Chinese partners to produce sustainable mushrooms without contamination by chemicals, maintaining a world-leading quality standard. Beyond organic, the mushrooms are grown on specially selected nutritious natural materials native to each particular mushroom, that are generally similar if not the same as what these mushrooms would grow on in the wild. In some cases, this is protein enriched sawdust, in others, buried hardwood logs. These natural substrates contain precursors that guarantee the production of important medicinal compounds. The mushroom crops are produced in greenhouses and shade-houses with a constant flow of fresh air and freshwater from deep wells, in natural conditions of temperature, light, and humidity. Natural sunlight provides the stimulus for proper mushroom formation, and the mushrooms are harvested by hand and sun-dried or air-dried in a dehydrator.
After harvest and before processing, every crop of mushrooms is tested for possible chemical drift or other contamination. This is how I desire my food grown: on a farm by real people, not in a sterile lab with artificial lights and stale air and unnatural substrates made of cereal grains or rice. For processing, their facilities are GMP certified factories that only process mushrooms (just like we only process cacao at Firefly). All water used in cleaning and extraction is purified with an ultrafiltration system. Every step of the extraction process is monitored closely according to established SOP’s (Standard Operation Procedures). The extract product is dried and packed in ultra cleanroom environments. Before sending them to the US, all mushrooms receive complete microbial testing for bacteria, yeast and mold, e. coli, and coliforms, heavy metals analysis, pesticide testing that exceeds USP standards, and organoleptic evaluation.
Once the mushrooms arrive in the US, they are similarly tested again by reputable 3rd party labs, and also tested for mushroom specific compounds, namely:
1. Beta-glucan testing to ensure the presence of active compounds.
2. Ergosterol testing to insure fungal purity.
3. Alpha-glucan testing to guard against adulterants and carriers.
4. Reishi extracts are analyzed for triterpenoids. Cordyceps is analyzed for cordycepin.
Are you impressed yet? You would think that US grown mushroom companies do all this and better, but they don’t. In fact, much of what is sold in the US as mushroom supplements is adulterated with starch. Stay tuned for the next installment where we go into more detail on the US mushroom growing process, and the health benefits of mushrooms!