The story of Birch Boys Chaga.

A 10-year-old conk of chaga mushroom!

Your Gifts for Contributing
Chaga Tea and Chaga Lip Balm Bundle!
Chaga Tea, Coffee, and Soap Bundle!
Become a Birch Brethren Plus a BIG Bundle!
About this project

One hot summer day four years ago, I helped myself to a glass of what-I-thought-was iced tea in my grandmother’s refrigerator. I had just finished mowing her lawn, and I was desperately craving something to drink. When my Grandma came in and saw what I was drinking, her jaw dropped. She laughed, and told me I was drinking a mushroom!

I was skeptical, but I was also very intrigued. Before I could even collect my thoughts enough to ask questions, Grandma started teaching me about her newfound obsession with the chaga mushroom. She explained that she had recently gone on a forest foraging trip, and learned about chaga from her guide. The guide showed a specimen of chaga growing on a birch tree, and explained its extensive medicinal benefits and history with the local indigenous people. Chaga is a parasitic mushroom that sucks the life out of birch trees. Over time, it stores the trees’ beneficial minerals and compounds into a super-concentrated conk that bursts out of the tree trunk. Due to its life cycle, chaga contains more antioxidants than ANY substance on Earth! In fact, it contains 1,360 times more antioxidants than blueberries, and 45 times more than açaí berries. By brewing chaga in hot water, its medicinal benefits become bio-available.

After the trip, my Grandma found a chaga mushroom growing on a birch tree right in her backyard! Her fanatical enthusiasm drew me in, and before I knew it, we were trekking out back across the freshly cut grass toward her proud find. As we approached the mushroom, I was startled to see that on the outside, it looked like an earthy mass of black charcoal.

Pic of chaga skin

It certainly didn’t look like anything I’d want to ingest. She carefully removed a piece from the tree and showed it to me. The inside of the mushroom had a bright, almost fluorescent orange color. The vibrant orange paired against the jet-black outer shell of the mushroom created a beautiful contrast, almost as if it was designed to draw your attention. She taught me that by brewing a piece of chaga in hot water, its bio-active components become bio-available. I was sold, and we went back inside to help ourselves to another cup of the tea.

That marked the beginning of our chaga hunting adventures. We made a great team. I was a spry 15 year old. I could effortlessly scale up trees to pick the chaga, and she had a vehicle and knowledge of the best spots to go looking for it! We’d take afternoons and drive down old dirt roads in areas of the Adirondacks looking for chaga. At one point, we had so much that we converted her dining room into a chaga drying area. We covered the table with drying racks filled with at least 30 pounds of chaga, and pointed fans on it from every direction. We would share it with family and friends, but it didn’t take long before we had collected more chaga than we knew what to do with.

My Grandma used to spin wool; she’d knit scarves and mittens, and take them to little craft fairs and Adirondack festivals. She encouraged me to come with her to a festival at the Adirondack Museum to try selling chunks of chaga. I packed up a scale, a poster board and marker, and as much chaga as I could carry. In about 4 hours, I had made $299 and sold out of all the chaga I brought with me. As a 15-year-old boy with that cash in my hand, I felt rich! Where else could someone my age make that kind of money? So, I started calling local farmers markets and fairs to reserve booth space to sell chaga. I made business cards, registered my first DBA for the company name Birch Boys Chaga, and dropped my summer lawn-mowing gig to become a chaga salesman.

I never would have anticipated the overwhelming amount of feedback, support, and email testimonials I received after those vendor events. There were people who claimed the chaga was giving them more energy, clearing up their skin, and even alleviating chronic pain associated with ailments such as arthritis. I realized that not only did I have an opportunity to help people, I had a tremendous opportunity to make money. That realization inspired me, and jumpstarted the motivation to launch my business. I want everybody to have the opportunity to try chaga mushroom and experience its medicinal benefits. From day one, my mission has always been to make chaga a household name.

I don’t really know how to describe why, but there is something so captivating about this mushroom. When you start drinking chaga, you tell your friends and family about it. You didn’t just start drinking a new green tea or a different flavor of chai - you started drinking CHAGA, and for whatever reason, that’s a big deal. Don’t get me wrong; there are many legitimate and proven facts about why chaga’s a big deal, but there is an underlying aura of fanaticism revolving around chaga and its drinkers. If you are one of them, you know exactly what I mean. It’s that underlying factor of erratic enthusiasm that possessed the foraging guide when he taught my Grandma about chaga, and what possessed her when she taught me. With Birch Boys Chaga, I strive to pass that on to everyone who is open-minded enough to listen.

The experiences and relationships I have built during this journey have been more incredible than any weird kid-trying-to-sell mushrooms could have ever dreamed of. And as much as I wish I could thank my Grandma (sadly, she has passed on), I know that she’d be incredibly proud if she could see what Birch Boys Chaga has become.

Pic of tea bag

Today, Birch Boys Chaga manufactures chaga into Chaga tea bags, Maple Chaga tea bags, Chaga coffee, and Chaga Lip Balm. We’ve gotten our products onto the shelves of over 140 stores spanning 6 states, as well as creating an online store and selling through Amazon. We have 5 amazing part-time employees, and we have no plans of slowing down!

The goal of Birch Boys Chaga going forward is rapid growth. We plan to use the funds raised on PieShell to first pursue operational expansions. We are moving out of the basement of our facility and into the main ground level. We will be renovating and upgrading the facility into a fully functioning chaga headquarters, complete with an Adirondack retail storefront! We also want to hold true to our mission statement and continue making chaga a household name. We’ll be investing in display cases and educational materials for all of our retail partners. We don’t just want our products to satisfy our customers, we want to teach them something new and inspire them to spread chaga knowledge to their own respective networks. Finally, we are ready to pursue some health food industry titans, but we need your help. We are planning on funding a trip to Expo East 2018 in order to network and communicate with a variety of food and drink industry experts. We also hope to make the connections that can lead us to the administrative level of some companies like Wegmans or Whole Foods, for example. We are ready to go national, and we hope you will be a part of it. Thank you!

Learn more about us:
1st stepping-stone
Expansion - We're Moving Out of the Basement!

You know the phrase “starting from the ground up?” Well, we actually started below the ground - but we’ve outgrown the basement! We are moving upstairs, and opening up a retail section in the front of our new manufacturing space, on the Main Street of Tupper Lake, New York. We’re renovating this to accommodate our production needs.

You know, when I started selling ground chaga, I would grind every mushroom piece by piece with a hand-crank meat grinder! Luckily, we have upgraded to a bigger grinder since then. But it’s still very slow, and it has no dust containment system. We walk out of the chaga shop covered in a fine layer of orange mushroom dust! We’re purchasing a new grinder that fixes this issue and dramatically speeds up our production!

We are definitely boot-strappers, and you can be sure that your money in this 1st stepping-stone will go to good use!

Thanks so much for helping us reach this stepping-stone!
2nd stepping-stone
Educational Display Cases

If I had a penny for every time I was asked “What is chaga?,” I wouldn’t need to be crowdfunding! Not enough people know about it. Our biggest barrier to entering the market is the fact that we have to create the market. That’s what we’ve been doing for 4 years!

If every store stocking our products had an informational display case to carry them, not only would it boost sales, but just think how many people we could educate! Even if just one person in each store reads our display box, we will have taught 1,000 people about chaga in a week!

Hitting our 2nd stepping-stone will fund our first run of these display cases.

3rd stepping-stone
Going for the Big Leagues!

The little town that I grew up in is pretty much a bubble in the middle of the woods. You literally have to drive over an hour to find a Walmart. That said, I was always pretty sheltered. It wasn’t until I was 15 or 16 that I first walked into a store like Wegmans, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s. They were beautiful! I was that naïve kid, going to our local farmers markets, who never imagined that one day he would get his products into a national food chain!

Next year, we want to exhibit at Expo East 2018, a natural food trade show in Baltimore, Maryland. I got the chance to attend this show two years ago when I was asked to help another entrepreneur set up with his maple syrup company. There were over 25,000 people there! All the big names in the food industry attend this show. We met all sorts of buyers from big food chains, distributors, and brokers. In fact, this show is where we met Dimitri Grigorovich, who introduced us to PieShell.

Next year, I have the opportunity to set up a booth and exhibit for my own company, Birch Boys Chaga. The vendor fee is over $4,000, which is why we are seeking your contributions for this 3rd stepping-stone.

Who is Birch Boys Chaga
Garrett Kopp
Founder + CEO

I am a 19-year-old student, entrepreneur, outdoorsman, and mushroom identification expert. I grew up in Tupper Lake, a small town nestled in the heart of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Growing up here was kind of like growing up in a bubble. It’s the type of town where you have to drive 45 minutes away to find a decent pair of shoes. Our high school mascot is literally a lumberjack! Naturally, Tupper Lake cultivates do-it-yourselfers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.

From a young age, my Mother taught me the importance of manners, social skills, and strategic planning. My Father taught me how to problem solve, bootstrap, and passed on his passion for the outdoors. They both instilled the importance of hard work, and what it takes to climb the ladder. They convinced me to try every sport available to me: hockey, baseball, football, soccer, swimming, sailing, etc. And they stood behind me when I’d lose interest and decide that it wasn’t for me. But what I value most about the way I was raised is that my parents never treated me like an ignorant little kid - even during the times when I absolutely was! My Mom and Dad always respected my decisions and opinions. They allowed me to think and act freely, even though sometimes my actions would contradict small town norms and stereotypical ways of thinking.

I have been an entrepreneur since long before I had any conscious awareness of what “entrepreneurship” meant. When I was 8 years old, I started regularly running lemonade stands. After turning 11, I started a paper route. At 13, I started a YouTube channel about my outdoor activities. I made videos about self-reliance, survival skills, and bushcraft. This channel ended up with over 5,000 subscribers and garnering more than 1,000,000 views! When I turned 14, I started a lawn-mowing gig around town. And finally, when I turned 15 years old, I found my niche: I started harvesting chaga mushrooms in the forest and bringing them to farmers markets.

I took a tremendous amount of pride in my school work. Part of this was an eagerness to learn, but it also stemmed from a competitive drive to be the best. I always took advanced courses when I had the opportunity, and overloaded my schedule with credits. By the time I was a junior in high school, I ended up only needing 2 credits to graduate. Around that time, I met a recruiter from Clarkson University at the Potsdam Farmers Market where I was selling chaga mushrooms. She taught me about Clarkson’s early entrance program, explained all of the entrepreneurial activity going on at campus, and immediately sold me on the idea that Clarkson University was the school for me. My high school worked out an arrangement to let me finish my remaining credits while studying at Clarkson, so I skipped my senior year to attend college. I ended up graduating second in my class, which will forever haunt me.

Going to Clarkson felt like moving to the big city - which is funny, considering they have a relatively small campus made up of 3,000 students. I was blown away by the ecosystem of driven individuals, professionals, and opportunities. I immediately knew that I had made the right choice, and I decided I was going to do something big with my life.

Today, I am in my third year studying Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Clarkson University, all while building an ever-expanding chaga mushroom company from the ground up.

Your Gifts for Contributing
Contribution of $30 or more
Chaga Tea and Chaga Lip Balm Bundle!

This bundle includes a box of 16 Chaga tea bags, a box of 16 Maple Chaga tea bags, and a tube of Chaga Lip Balm!

Our Chaga tea boxes include 16 tea bags of pure, sustainably harvested, ground Adirondack chaga. The flavor is like a smooth and mild black tea with an earthy undertone. Our Maple Chaga tea boxes contain the same as our original boxes, plus a gram of real maple sugar added into each tea bag for those with a sweet tooth! Our Chaga Lip Balm contains chaga-infused olive oil for maximum nourishment! It’s subtle balsam scent will transport you to a lush spring forest.

Shipping in the US

43 contributors
Contribution of $55 or more
Chaga Tea, Coffee, and Soap Bundle!

This product bundle features two boxes of 16 Chaga tea bags, a box of 16 Maple Chaga tea bags, an 8 oz bag of loose Chaga Coffee, and a bar of handmade Chaga Soap!

Our Chaga Coffee is a sumptuous blend of medium roast, Ethiopian grown, Adirondack roasted coffee mixed with ground Chaga mushroom. It will have you buzzing from your brain to your taste buds! The Chaga tea’s flavor is like a smooth and mild black tea with an earthy undertone. Our Maple Chaga tea is similar, but contains a gram of real maple sugar added into each tea bag for those with a sweet tooth! Our soap is a 4oz bar of Chaga-infused hand and body soap scented with birch and cedar, containing saponified oils of olive, sunflower, and coconut.

Shipping in the US

15 contributors
Contribution of $75 or more
Become a Birch Brethren Plus a BIG Bundle!

For the truly dedicated chaga fans out there, we are offering a PieShell exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

First, you will win two of boxes of 16 Chaga tea bags, two boxes of 16 Maple Chaga tea bags, an 8 oz bag of loose Chaga Coffee, and two bars of handmade Chaga Soap.

Second, you will receive 15% off every purchase you make, FOR LIFE! You will be supplied with a personal coupon code to ensure you never order without a discount again!

Third, you will be personally invited to our Spring 2018 grand opening! Come tour our facility, witness the beautiful scenery of the Adirondacks, and meet all the members of the Birch Boys Chaga team.

Shipping in the US

61 contributors