A type of fungus grown on the bark of birch trees in cold climates such as Northern Europe, Russia, Northern Canada, and Alaska, the Inonotus obliquus - also known as Pakuri or Chaga - is a powerful natural medicine to boost your immune system. Growing on damaged, but alive, trees in forests with low yielding, Finland has perfect territories to grow and harvest this mushroom, taking 6 to 10 years to develop fully.
With forests abundant especially in eastern and northern parts of Finland, Pakuri is becoming a particular source of income for many people living in the woods, able to commercialize wild and inoculated versions of the fungus. Mostly unknown in the western world, besides the United States and Canada, an alert goes for the purity of the product.
With a bigger demand than availability, some packages of the milled product prevenient from China may carry high concentrations of heavy metals. Alex Keskitalo, from the shop Pakurikääpä, commercializes only wild Pakuri from Finnish forests, to guarantee the purest form and best results. "In fact, it needs extreme cold for the trees to crack open allowing for the Chaga spore to float in, infecting the tree.. like tree cancer", he says. So, the mushroom needs a healthy, cold, and open environment to develop, and to present better organoleptic results.
Being a product first used in Russia, where it's called Chaga and until today one of the biggest producers, the habit of making the tea of the mushroom eventually arrived in Finland. With time, the drinking of the Tikka-tea ceased for several decades among the wider public, but since 2011 it is experiencing a growing trend in Finland. As the country is the biggest consumer of coffee in the world, it became normal to mix a teaspoon of Pakuri into the brewed coffee, for an earthy flavor and healthier result.
Pakuri is traditionally grated into a fine powder and used to brew a beverage similar to coffee or tea. The brew can be made traditionally, using hot water. For a more complete process, it can be extracted into alcohol, as a second step to the brewing, to develop more complex flavors and nutrients. The final product is a tea or coffee, believed to boost immunization and fight infections, and to heal or to relieve symptoms related to gastrointestinal problems. It's a super-powerful ingredient, considered magical by some users. By the formation of beneficial cytokines, proteins that regulate the immune system, Pakuri tea stimulates white blood cells, essential for fighting off bacteria or viruses, and boosts your immunization.
But it's good to notice that it also contains large concentrations of oxalate, so as the consumption of the tea has many benefits, it has to be controlled, as it may cause kidney stones when in excess. What is recommended is a careful choice, milled or in chunks, as it can be tricky to buy something completely pure. What is known for sure is how this product with time will be recognized in most Eastern countries, with the expansion of well-being philosophies and diets high in antioxidants to prevent and treat illnesses.
So, with the work of high tech companies specialized in sampling and inoculating the fungus in forests, Finland has the reputation of producing and selling high-quality Pakuri. Janni Mankki from Suomen Pakuri says "Our scientists started operating around Chaga inoculation about ten years ago, and they are the first people in the world who invented whole Chaga inoculation. For customers, we started to sell Chaga inoculation plugs in the summer of 2016. So it will take a couple of years before the first harvests are ready."
But it's not just technology. It's the terroir of the land. The cold, the purity of the air, the northern moss, these are the perfect settings for the mushroom to grow and to make, in the end, the tea that "tastes like the forest."
Photo: Melanie Tickell on Pixabay