Ancient tonic: Mushrooms making it now as coffee in the modern wellness market

Posted by Cat Woods on 26th November 2018

LION’S Mane, reishi, chaga and cordyceps may soon be the new names to know when attending your local café as consumers continue seeking to replace coffee with a health-giving alternative – this time with mushrooms and fungi.

These vitamin-rich, flavour-packed “functional” foods are in demand for edibles, beverages and skincare products.

America’s Wholefoods Market (now owned by Amazon) predicted medicinal mushrooms would be one of the major food trends of 2018.

Their global food market experts said: “Bottled drinks, coffees, smoothies and teas are leading the way. The rich flavours also lend themselves to mushroom broths, while the earthy, creamy notes pair well with cocoa, chocolate or coffee flavours.”

Catnip to the wellness market

Mushrooms have been used in eastern medicine for centuries due to their concentrated health benefits. Rich in vitamins D, B, fibre, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium, they are catnip to the wellness market.

Cafes offer mushroom lattes – a combination of reishi and shiitake mushroom powder with almond, cashew or coconut milk.

The names and flavours are as varied as their appearance. Lion’s Mane promises to boost brain power, Chaga is rich in antioxidants and Reishi is an antidote to stress. As with anything classified “medicinal” or “functional”, consumers are justified in wondering about their safety.

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Teelixir has been retailing the superfood for over 3 years. “We like to think of these mushrooms as superfoods more than medicinal,” says co-founder, Daniel Whitechurch.

“They’re classified as tonic herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These are substances that are safe to consume over the long-term in high doses with no known side effects,” Mr Whitechurch says.

“In some instances, the only negative might be if a first-time user consumed a very large dose which might cause a safe but unwanted detox cleanse. Perfectly healthy in the long-term.”

As for the target market, women are making significantly higher online purchases on the Teelixir site.

“Our analysis shows the majority of the online market consumers (70%) buying superfood mushrooms are female aged between 25-45. Women tend to be more health conscious than men in this industry so that isn’t very surprising to us; women tend to have a bit more foresight when it comes to their health.”

So, will medicinal mushrooms trump turmeric in Australian cafes?

“While the bitter notes of Reishi and Chaga can be challenging to the uninitiated, it is precisely these properties that give rise to their genius in the cafe culture,” says Whitechurch.

“Coffee and chocolate are both bitter foods which sync up perfectly with these mushrooms. While turmeric lattes may be old in their native culture, in the West we have been consuming coffee and hot chocolates a lot longer, so if people can make them healthier and still enjoy their guilty pleasure, we think they will.”