Mushroom coffee is everywhere—but if you're a coffee lover, the very idea of grinding up dried fungus, boiling it in hot water and quaffing it first thing in the morning probably sounds deeply disgusting. Yet you can't scroll Instagram without coming across an ad for mushroom coffee. Joe Rogan drinks it on his podcast (his preferred brand, Four Sigmatic, is also an advertiser on his show). Celebrities like Taika Waititi and Meghan Markle are endorsing and even investing in mushroom coffee brands. A Kardashian was even spotted in the wild with a Chaggachino.
Why are so many people trading in their morning cup of joe for mushroom coffee? What did coffee do wrong that so many are insisting we need a substitute?
Caffeine: Capitalism’s Favorite Drug
Coffee is by far the most widely and frequently consumed psychoactive substance on the planet (yes, like cannabis, psilocybin and other Schedule 1 drugs, caffeine is classified as a psychoactive drug). The World Health Organization defines psychoactive drugs as “substances that, when taken in or administered into one's system, affect mental processes, e.g. perception, consciousness, cognition or mood and emotions.” So yes, caffeine is a drug—the most socially acceptable drug besides alcohol. It's even lethal in large doses (don't worry, it takes at least 40 cups to kill you).
Of course, psychoactive drugs exist on a spectrum: heroin clearly affects the human brain far more intensely than alcohol, caffeine or nicotine. Caffeine is the drug of choice for 90 percent of adults, according to McGill University, in part because it’s a central nervous system stimulant that can make us feel energized and awake.
The first recorded workplace-provided coffee in America was in 1902, when Larkin Company of Buffalo, New York, provided free coffee to their employees. The move was likely an effort to increase factory laborers’ productivity. Today, it's difficult to find an office that doesn't have coffee brewing in the break room, and 74 percent of us drink it daily.
But is this daily ritual actually harmful to our health?
Coffee: Beneficial in Moderation, But Detrimental to Some Populations
Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says coffee is fine—as long as we consume it in moderation. In fact, drinking 2 to 3 cups a day is linked to less incidence of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and even depression. Coffee benefits cerebral health by increasing circulation to the brain, and can improve alertness, focus and concentration.
But for certain groups, coffee is detrimental: children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with panic or anxiety disorders. Even people without anxiety can find the jittery energy of coffee uncomfortable, or find that it messes with their digestion. People with irritable bowel syndrome, glaucoma, heart conditions and sleep disorders are also cautioned to avoid the brown brew. We are a chronically sleep-deprived society, and many health practitioners say that consuming stimulants all day can interfere with deep sleep, which makes us more tired, which leads to consuming more of the stimulants and perpetuates the vicious circle.
Mushroom Coffee: Why Science Says It’s a Healthier Choice
So while coffee isn't bad for you, and can even be good for you In moderation, mushroom coffee is undoubtedly more nutritious and provides many more benefits to your health. Mushroom coffee makers aren’t just liquifying a pound of shiitake—they consciously incorporate mushroom species that replicate many of the results we want for when we drink coffee.
Mushroom coffee is usually made with specific mushrooms that are known to benefit brain health, like lion’s mane and cordyceps mushrooms. Studies show both these fungi types can increase circulation to the brain, magnify memory, spur the growth of new brain cells, and even improve energy, stamina and mood.
Other blends use mushrooms like reishi, turkey tail, and chaga, all of which have been used for thousands of years as medicines within the traditional Chinese medicine pharmacopeia, and which have proven ability to strengthen immunity and improve digestion.
Plus, mushrooms of all types are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds like beta glucans and polysaccharides, all of which support health. So while that shot of espresso may not be bad for you, it's not nearly as beneficial as a cup of mushroom coffee. Even UCLA Health points out that mushroom coffee can reduce inflammation, support the immune system, and lead to better sleep. The only objection? Mushroom coffee can cost twice as much as its Folgers counterpart. So if you’re going to spend the money on mushroom coffee, you need to make sure you get a quality brand.
What’s the Best-Quality Mushroom Coffee?
As with any health fad, a lot of poor-quality knock offs have popped up to take advantage of the fungal coffee trend. Here’s how to avoid them:
Check the label to make sure the brand uses fruiting bodies only. If you're interested in trying a mushroom coffee, make absolutely certain that it's one made exclusively with fruiting bodies. The fruiting body (a.k.a. the cap and stem) provides the vast majority of the biocompounds, the beta-glucans, the minerals and all the other beneficial compounds you’re looking for.
Some brands use filler like mushroom mycelium (which are like the trunk and roots of the mushroom) or the grain the mushroom grew in, in part because they're way cheaper. As long as you're going to spend the money, make sure you're getting what you paid for: Fruiting bodies only.
Check the label for the type and amount of mushrooms per serving. Some mushroom coffee brands include just a trace amount of mushrooms. Every consumer should know about a shady practice that we in the business call “fairy dusting:” where a brand adds just enough of a hyped ingredient to proclaim it on the label and upcharge accordingly, but not nearly enough to actually make a difference in your health.
In my opinion, if you’re getting less than 1000 milligrams per serving, you’re getting ripped off.
And unless you're trying to consume just one mushroom, look for a blend of species: lion’s mane, cordyceps, reishi, turkey tail and chaga are all good for you, but each species offers different benefits. If you're doing this for your health, why not get them all?
Sample it to make sure you like how it tastes. For me, my morning coffee is a sacred ritual, one I simply can’t trade in for a substitute that tastes like dirt. Many mushroom coffee blends include actual coffee—for me, that's been the best of both worlds. Whether you blend it with milk, soy or other dairy alternatives, you need to actually enjoy drinking mushroom coffee, otherwise it will sit on the shelf collecting dust. Whether it's coffee, tea, or a mushroom brew, your morning beverage should be a ritual that you look forward to, not a bitter-tasting concoction you have to choke down “for health.” Set yourself up for success by finding a brand you actually look forward to consuming.
BLM Oregon Creative Commons BY 2.0 DEED
Robert Johnson is the founder & CEO of premium mushroom product company Mycroboost and supplements manufacturer Custom Capsule Consultants. He's a cannabis and hemp industry veteran, health product expert, psychedelic advocate and seasoned entrepreneur with a 20-year track record of launching successful startup businesses in new and emerging markets. His pioneering product innovations and keen insights into the future of the health marketplace have made him a sought-after consultant, conference speaker, and op-ed contributor. His bylines have appeared in Rolling Stone, Cannabis Industry Daily, MG Magazine, Natural Products Insider, Nutraceuticals World, Nutritional Outlook, and Green Entrepreneur.
Prior to founding Custom Capsule Consultants in 2019, Robert was Co-Founder and Head of Sales at TetraLabs. During his seven-year tenure at TetraLabs, he helped pioneer the development of the industry’s first premium pharmaceutical-grade cannabinoid products, as well as the use of fractional distillation to clarify and isolate THC oil, and the first softgels on the market. He also served as co-owner and CEO at CannaCatering, which he grew from a bootstrapped start-up to a California industry leader in two years.
Who we are:
Mycroboost is a premium functional mushroom company, creating best-quality therapeutic mushroom products that make natural health and better living accessible to all.
We make vegan mushroom softgels, gummies and coffee, using only certified organic fruiting body mushroom extracts—no grains, no filler, just mushroom magic.
Founded by a dedicated group of myconerds and supplement skeptics, Mycroboost makes science-based mushroom formulations that support your well-being at every level. Welcome to the mushroom renaissance!
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I'm a seasoned cannabis and hemp industry veteran, startup founder, product developer, business consultant, CEO of supplement manufacturer Custom Capsule Consultants and founder of Mycroboost, a functional mushroom product line.
I've written about my work in mushroom product development and the burgeoning psychedelic industry for Rolling Stone, Natural Products Insider, Nutraceuticals World, and I've been a speaker and panelist at the California Psychedelic Conference and the Oakland Psychedelic Conference.
I've also written about the business opportunities in hemp, cannabinoids, kratom, mushrooms and supplements for Cannabis Industry Journal, MG Magazine, Green Entrepreneur and Nutraceuticals World.
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