You know I’m all about bringing you the best healthful food ideas. When I first met Jee Bae, I had spotted big glass jars of Reishi mushrooms on a shelf in her tea and sandwich shop in Dalton, Georgia. Jee and I talked about the mushrooms she had brought from Alaska and she took great care in explaining exactly how I should brew my mushroom tea. I had used Reishi tea before with exceptional results and was considering it for a friend going through a serious illness. I bought five whole red mushrooms and Jee and I exchanged email addresses.
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is also known as Young Ji in Korea and Ling zhi in China. Besides going by exotic names like Immortality mushroom, mannentake, mushroom of Spiritual Potency, rei-shi, Spirit Plant, zi zhi, and fu zhen herb, Young-ji boasts a ton of health benefits too long to detail here. A few months after taking that mushroom home and brewing it regularly for my, now much-improved friend, Jee contacted me to say she was making medicinal mushrooms available online at Teas of Eden. I purchased several packets right then and have made them a regular part of my tea drinking. I must share this find with you. Do enjoy this interview with Jee Bae and then investigate for yourself.
Jee, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to offer mushroom teas to the public.
I am from South Korea and came to Alaska in 1989 after my marriage. My husband and I ran a restaurant there for 15 years. Though the summers are short, Alaska was a good place to raise my two kids because of its lack of pollution. We could drink the tap water without filtering! Though it was very enjoyable living there, after 15 years, the dark, long, cold winters depressed me and I wanted to live somewhere with four seasons. We settled down in Georgia and started a restaurant. Personally I have a lot of interest in living in a natural and healthy way. After seeing the amazing health benefits of these mushroom teas, I decided that I must share them with others, so I added them in addition to the herbal teas at the restaurant and now online to all of the United States.
Tell me about the teas you offer at TeasofEden.com.
Currently, the teas I provide at the Teas of Eden are medicinal mushroom teas that are as close to Nature as you can get! Rather than using mushrooms that mass-grown on farms, mine are hand-selected in the natural forests of Alaska by a friend – a specialist who has been in the business for more than ten years. These mushrooms are ground into powder so that they can be made into tea. I offer Chaga, Youngji (Reishi), and Sang-Hwang mushroom teas which provide numerous health benefits, which I highly recommend as part of a natural and healthy lifestyle.
I see there are all manner of positive health claims for each of these medicinal mushrooms all over the internet. Most are not in the U.S., but we know that Western culture can be skeptical of Eastern medicine sometimes. Can you tell me what makes these teas so special?
In Asian countries, such as China, Korea, and Japan, these teas have been used for 3000-5000 years. They have been noted and praised throughout the generations for their unbelievable health benefits and seemingly miraculous effects. I had heard these stories, but had never tried them myself. Then, several years ago, I went through a time of fatigue. I was always tired and having no energy. I decided to give these teas a try. After drinking the teas for several months, I became more alert, had more energy, and was feeling better overall. Now I make these teas a daily part of my life.
Do you acquire your teas only from Alaska? Why not elsewhere?
Actually, there are many great mushrooms teas from a variety of places. Russia has very good Chaga mushrooms, but after the Chernobyl disaster, I am hesitant to use Russian Chaga mushrooms and do not want to take the risk. Korea and China also have excellent mushrooms, but international shipping would greatly increase the cost. The majority of mushroom distributors in the United States grow their mushrooms on farms, which means that they are not grown naturally, in the wild. Mine are directly from Alaska from a single distributor who works by himself to hand-pick each mushroom carefully to ensure its quality. My friend only picks from the most unaffected forests, sustainably. Because he picks them fresh and sends them to me directly, I am not afraid of any cross-contamination – bacteria or other harmful microorganisms that may come from other mushrooms shipped internationally or in bulk.
The instructions on the tea pouches say not to drink mushroom teas with other teas, coffee, soda or alcohol. Tell me about that, please.
Although it says not to drink with any of those things, which include black tea, half an hour before and after drinking the mushroom teas, I’ve actually been drinking the mushroom tea throughout the day regardless. Sometimes I drink a little coffee, but I drink the mushroom tea constantly throughout the day. The main point is if you want the entire benefit, it is better to follow the labeled directions. Drinking a little coffee or tea won’t matter that much, the way I am doing, but if you’re a heavy coffee drinker, then it is best not to drink coffee, black tea, etc, as written on the packet, half an hour before and after, as it will decrease the benefits.
I wondered if I should refrigerate the package after I open it. It self closes, but it just seemed normal to stash the rest in the fridge rather than my tea cabinet. Is this wrong?
The packet should not be refrigerated! This is because constantly moving the tea powder in and out of the refrigerator can cause humidity to build up inside, which can encourage bacteria growth. Therefore the powder should be kept at room temperature. After making the powder into tea, however, it is perfectly fine to refrigerate.
Okay. That makes sense. (Note: I keep the mushroom packets in my tea cabinet now and they have kept very well so far, even after many months. Keep in mind you can brew the same powder 2 or 3 times with the same potency! – Val)
Is this mushroom tea essentially a whole food? How processed are these healthful teas?
After being handpicked, the mushrooms are dried out in the natural sunlight for two weeks and then dried out in the shade for six months. Afterwards, there are three stages of chopping and grinding that the mushrooms go through for the process. This is done at a very low speed, unlike many chopping and grinding machine, which generate lots of heat. Heat can make the mushrooms lose their effectiveness, so the machines are operated at a low speed to preserve the health benefits of raw, whole, dried mushrooms.
I imagine you get lots of good feedback about how these teas help. Can you share some, please?
Yes! One teenager told me that when she drinks the Chaga tea, it relieves her upset stomach so she asked her mother to buy more so that they’d always have a stock of it at home. In addition, many people that suffer from constipation have told me that drinking the tea has really helped them. I myself have felt an energy boost from drinking the teas for a long period of time. Another person told me that she did not get sick easily and that when she got sick, drinking lots of it (Youngji) helped to recover quickly. These are just a few testimonies – there are many more!
Yes, I am a big Reishi tea fan. It’s so much easier to buy your teas now than boiling and scoring a rock-hard Reishi mushroom, which I have done many times. Will you be adding more to Teas of Eden?
Yes, I plan on offering more specialty teas such as teas that will help you to sleep easily at night, help with migraines, help with digestion, etc. Also, I plan on offering gourmet coffees and other herbal teas as well in the future.
[box type=”bio”] Update: Gnosis Chocolate (which I adore!) has made a CinnaPecan dark chocolate truffle that contains Chaga and other healthful antioxidants. Check it out here! http://www.gnosischocolate.com/cinnapecan-truffles[/box]
Thanks for joining us!
[box] Check out my podcast about green, black, white and herbal teas with Jacqueline Gates here: Tea Demystified. [/box]