I have been an avid wild foods forager (you have no choice when trying to feed a family of 15 in those days) since 1960, a mushroom hunter since 1987, and a professional hunter and buying agent for larger mushroom companies on the Pacific north coast since 1997- right up until my return home here to New Brunswick, Canada in 2006 where I established Fiddlehead Heaven Forest Products. We were the first company in North America to harvest and offer Chaga in it's natural form on the web to Canada & the USA at that time.
As a mushroom buyer and harvester in some of the very most remote areas of North America, I have seen all the nasty tricks that some of the most unscrupulous people will try to get away with when it comes to selling their mushrooms and other wild harvested products to you.
I have a saying that goes like this-
I know everything I need to know about a harvester just by looking in his or her basket of mushrooms or other wild harvested products they bring to sell me. What they bring will tell me one of three things about that person:
I hate to say this folks, but this is also true for some Chaga harvesters I have come across here and in other parts of North America. And this is where a buyer of wild mushrooms has to be on his toes and know his stuff. Mushroom harvesters are almost always paid by weight, and here are some of the things that people have done to add more weight to their mushrooms:
Although I have trained many people to harvest wild mushrooms throughout North America since 1997 and some of them are very dedicated to what they do, I still check each and every mushroom that is brought to me for signs of tampering or soaking.
And again folks I hate to say this, but make sure you know and trust the person or company you are buying from before buying either powder or tea bags from them. It really is okay to ask the company or harvester for references, including us! For those who would like some background on me here is a good place to start, this link opens the "Canadian Society For Social Development"
There is another mushroom that grows on dead Birch tree called Tinder Conk and, although it looks nothing like Chaga on the outside, the inside (after dried) looks very much like Chaga after it is ground up into powder. So just beware that there are people out there mixing this mushroom with the Chaga as a filler. And as if that isn't bad enough, there are also companies adding bark (not the paper) from the Birch tree as a filler.
Do not be afraid to ask the person or company you are buying from for such things as, business licenses, FDA registration numbers, and ask for references as well.. Also ask how long they have been in the business of harvesting Chaga and what they are doing to ensure a sustainable future harvest for Chaga.
When you buy Chaga or other wild mushrooms from my family, you know that you are buying from a known, trusted source in North America for wild mushrooms since 1997, and that we have gone the extra mile to protect you as well as ourselves from these kind of people.
I would like to say: "Here's to a cup of good, healthy Chaga Tea!"
If you deserve the best, then we have what you deserve!