We explore how and why mushrooms may be the ultimate healthy addition to your coffee routine.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo by Timothy Dykes for Unsplash
As we’ve learned and observed through our “Know Your Ingredients” series, health trends almost always tend to cross paths with the coffee world. So naturally, the health world’s latest obsession with medicinal mushrooms has steadily found its way onto coffee menus throughout the United States. Medicinal mushrooms have been a staple of Chinese herbal health for thousands of years, and 85% of the world’s supply actually comes from China. As an extension of this, mushroom coffee is a new way to caffeinate without the jitters, and it also provides a surplus of holistic benefits, too.
Before you toss a handful of chopped button mushrooms into your morning brew, you should probably switch that fresh (and often dirt-coated) bundle for an extract instead—unless you enjoy an earthy umami flavor in your coffee. However, you probably won’t get as much of the nutritional benefits as you would with a potent extract. Unlike the mushrooms we see at the grocery store, medicinal mushroom supplements typically utilize the benefits of the following varieties:
- Chaga – Chaga is used in immune boosters, but it also helps clear and protect skin, plus aids in digestion.
- Reishi – Among many health benefits, its primary ones are its ability to boost your immune system and fight inflammation.
- Cordyceps – Cordyceps improves lung capacity (especially helpful for asthmatic and allergy-prone folks).
- Lion’s Mane – A champion of healthy brain function and neuron regeneration.
Mushroom ingestion in general, whether consumed directly or through an extract, supplements the body with a load of antioxidants, proteins, and fiber. However, the four above-mentioned varieties focus on specific areas of concern like stress, brain health, and heart health.
Lion’s Mane is responsible for most mushroom-infused coffee available at the moment; its ability to increase focus and alertness works hand-in-hand with coffee’s eye-opening powers. Lion’s Mane is also said to help with anxiety and improve immunity. According to Healthline, “Lion’s Mane is rare in the fact that it fosters the production of the bioprotein nerve growth factor (NFG) Trusted Source and myelin (an insulation around nerve fibers).” These are both crucial to brain health, and like caffeine, can decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s.
To make this magic happen, ground mushrooms (the extract) are simply mixed into ground coffee and brewed together. Alternatively, if you’re looking to experience a well-rounded set of mushroom health benefits, you could also stir a teaspoon of a mushroom-blend extract into your cup of coffee with the same spoon you stir in sugar. Whichever way you choose, your brew will still taste like your regular coffee, as the extract does little to affect the taste.
Currently, a few brands on the market that produce mushroom coffee come in the form of instant coffee packets, coffee pods, and pre-ground coffee blended with the dried mushrooms broken into small bits. Some mushroom coffee products don’t even have actual coffee. “There are two ‘types’ of mushroom coffee,” explains Matt Milletto, co-founder of Vehicle Chocolates, a company that offers a trifecta of mushroom chocolates, hot cocoa, and coffee. “One is a replacement to your coffee beverage, often made of a range of ingredients, none of which are actual coffee, which is why caffeine content would be reduced. And the other is coffee with the added benefit of functional mushrooms (Vehicle is this type).”
There’s a low bar to entry if you want to experiment with mushroom coffee; most products are less than $20 USD, and some brands even sell packets of instant individually. As Matt at Vehicle explains, “We are working hard with a focus on consumers ‘adding mushrooms’ to their daily routine, not changing their habits. We feel we can celebrate all of the pleasures of organic specialty coffees, with the added benefit of mushrooms.” If you’re a sucker for health trends, this may be one worth exploring, or even incorporating into the menu of your own business to pique customer curiosity.