At Wunderground Coffee, in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, the coffee contains more than just caffeine.
“Lion’s mane, chaga, reishi, cordyceps,” Wunderground’s founder, Jody Hall, names the adaptogenic mushrooms they infuse into the coffee: flavored syrups and bone broth served in the café.
“I started taking medicinal mushrooms,” said Hall. “Things that are commercially available, supplements, and felt a profound difference. So I thought, for my next thing, I want to be able to combine coffee with mushrooms and take something that we already do every day and make it better, to make us better.”
These aren’t magic mushrooms, they’re mushrooms some cultures have been taking medicinally for thousands of years. Hall says they can affect one’s mood, brain focus and immunity.
If Hall’s name sounds familiar, she also founded Cupcake Royale, one of the nation’s first cupcake bakeries, and The Goodship, an edibles company founded the same year marijuana became legal in Washington state. She has a gift for tapping into new trends, and now she’s getting in at the start of a mushroom revolution.
Hall offers to make me a drink and I request a decaf coffee. I stopped drinking caffeine more than a dozen years ago because it makes me feel anxious and gives me brain fog.
“One of the things I love about adding these potent adaptogens to coffee is that they help regulate things like stress and cortisol, which is also anxiety,” said Hall. “So people who’ve had to drink decaf are enjoying Wunderground and saying, ‘wow, this is amazing, it doesn’t set off my anxiety!’”
She sent me home with some coffee to try…and she was right. I’ve had about a half dozen cups so far, and it’s the only time in over a decade that I’ve had caffeine and didn’t feel a touch of anxiety.
I wanted to learn more about these mushrooms, so I called up Gina Rivers Contla, a science educator at Host Defense, a Washington state-based mushroom supplement company founded by the most well-known mycologist on the planet, Paul Stamets. To be clear, she can only speak to Host Defense, not Wunderground.
“As a representative of a supplement company, I have to be very clear that I cannot treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease or illness,” Rivers Contla said.
She says their bestseller, and the most popular mushroom, is lion’s mane.
“Lion’s mane has been shown to benefit our memory, our cognitive function, our mood,” said Rivers Contla. “So a lot of people are taking lion’s mane in hopes that will help bolster their short-term memory recall and help with long-term memory formation. We do have some actual human clinical trials that have been done with lion’s mane in the elderly population. With Host Defense lion’s mane, I get feedback typically around the two-week mark where people start to say, ‘You know what, I remember where I put my keys today.’”
Mushrooms are all the rage in the wellness world, but in my search to find a neutral researcher who could speak to the medicinal benefits of these fungi, I came up empty.
“At Host Defense, we do a lot of research,” Rivers Contla said. “We’ve had our products studied by independent labs and then we’ve also funded research. It’s been a challenge for us to find non-biased peer reviewers for these studies because, just like you said, a lot of your experts have a vested interest.”