Thrive Tries It: Does Mushroom Coffee Work Better Than Regular Brew?March 3rd, 2016
It’s pretty safe to say that we’re a generally healthful bunch here at Thrive HQ—even the cheese puffs in our communal kitchen are gluten-free. But one vice that we just can’t seem to quit? Coffee.
The lifeblood of our bustling office, there are four huge, centrally located canisters of strong coffee that seem to magically refill themselves throughout the day. Just one cup in the morning? Please. People are still drinking fully caffeinated beverages at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon. Yeah, we’re kinda wired.
So when we found out about mushroom coffee, it was like our dream—of getting extra health benefits and a caffeine fix at the same time—was turning into a reality. So my fellow health editor, Dana Poblete, and I decided to give it a try and swap it in for our usual cup of coffee for one week.
The health benefits of mushrooms
Four Sigmatic’s mushroom drinks have been on my “must-try” list for a while. Each of the company’s powdered superfood drinks is made with a different mushroom variety with particular positive effects:
- Chaga supports immunity
- Lion’s Mane is considered a natural brain-booster, for improved mental clarity
- Cordyceps boosts energy and athletic performance
- Reishi has anti-anxiety and relaxing properties
There’s tons of research on the medicinal properties of specific mushrooms, and cordyceps in particular has been examined for its positive effect on metabolic rate and exercise. A quick search of the National Institute of Health’s published studies yields no less than a thousand papers dedicated to cordyceps, citing everything from its antibacterial and antifungal powers to its antioxidant-like ability to protect cells from free radical damage.
And then there’s the, Mushroom Coffee Mix, a blend of 100-percent Arabica coffee and dual-extracted cordyceps and chaga—this is the product Dana and I used for our little experiment. The fungi are first dried, then boiled in purified water, which reduces them down to a liquid. From there, distilled alcohol is infused to transform the “mushroom liquid” into a bioavailable concentrated extract—meaning that the nutritious compounds are easier for your body to digest and utilize. Finally, that potent concentrate is pressurized, leaving it as a fine mushroom powder that easily dissolves into water. Science-y, right?
We tried the mix three different ways—and got some pretty surprising results.
Hot water + Mushroom Coffee Mix
The package recommends adding the powder to 7 ounces of water for a coffee replacement. Dana and I gleefully stir the espresso-colored powder into boiling water. I sniff—it doesn’t smell like coffee. It has a more umami, and well, mushroom-like scent. Dana’s the first to take a sip: “Not bad. Tastes like instant coffee.” I agree—I’m not a fan of mushrooms generally, so I was a little worried, but I don’t taste anything but coffee. We both end up finishing our entire mugs.
Around 2 p.m. I find myself fading, only to glance at Dana and see her a little slumped in her chair. Maybe we’re feeling the effects of getting less caffeine than usual (the powder contains about half that of a standard cup of coffee). Even though I’m a little more lethargic, my thoughts do feel clearer. Perhaps the power of cordyceps kicked in?
Freshly brewed coffee + Mushroom Coffee Mix
Despite the lackluster performance on day one, we know that the mix is so undeniably healthy that we have to give it another shot. Day two we dissolve it into seven ounces of regular coffee (instead of water)—holy moly, does it work! No ’shroomy taste, great energy levels all day long, and we both feel laser-focused and super productive. But this stuff was meant to replace our coffee habit, right? Adding it into our morning cup felt a little like cheating the system—no doubt, it seriously upgrades regular brew, but for someone trying to cut back on caffeine there had to be another solution.
Butter + coconut oil + cacao + Mushroom Coffee Mix
As a person who picks wine based on “how cute” the label is, I know I’m drawn to well-designed products. Four Sigmatic’s packaging is so cool that I keep finding myself picking up the box and reading it. This is when I discover the secret recipe hidden on the bottom: “Try combining this product with butter, cacao powder, and coconut oil.” A bulletproof mushroom coffee latte? Pure gold.
It’s simple: 1 tablespoon grass-fed butter, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, a dash of cacao powder, and a whir of the in-house Vitamix and we had ourselves 2 cups of frothy faux coffee. A tentative sip—perfection. I can definitively say, this is the way I’ll be drinking my morning brew from now on.
Dana’s decided she’ll stick to her daily green tea, although she was also a big fan of our bulletproof concoction. For someone looking to slowly taper down from full-blown caffeine addict to casual coffee drinker, substituting your second or third cup of the day with any of Four Sigmatic’s mushroom mixes might be the best way to do it!
Photo by Paul Delmont, GIFs and video by Alicia Cho