Care for a cup of shrooms?

A sampling of Four Sigmatic’s mushroom-based drinks. Photograph by Bob Rozycki
A sampling of Four Sigmatic’s mushroom-based drinks. Photograph by Bob Rozycki

Let me start out by saying that I love mushrooms. Cremini, portabello, chanterelle, oyster, shiitake, enoki, porcini, even the lowly and plain-vanilla white or button. I was even lucky enough once to taste a truffle.

I like them sautéed with every type of food.

But to take a mushroom and then dry and pulverize it and turn it into an instant drink, like a tea or instant coffee, well…

It was an affirmative reply on my behalf to an email entreaty to sample mushroom coffee that resulted in a package of samples from Four Sigmatic in West Hollywood.

The company was founded by Finland-native Tero Isokauppila in 2012, “to help democratize the consumption of mushrooms, the world’s most researched superfoods.”

Growing up on a farm, he began foraging wild edibles as a youngster.

Company literature describes Tero as “a modern nomad” who spent the last 10 years living and studying all over the world. “While his focus has been on providing health tips to professional athletes, models, and business people, his goal is to expand that reach to the masses.”

The samples sent to me included mushroom coffee and instant lion’s mane – mushroom drinks each singularly containing cordyceps, chaga or reishi – and two cocoa drinks, one with cordyceps and spice and one with reishi.

One office mate sniffed at such a mushroom-based beverage, showing disdain.

“Try it? I think not!”

Another just wrinkled up her nose.

I must say I was hesitant as well.

I delayed brewing up a cup. I was fearful of the taste. I have eaten some odd things over my years and could not understand my hesitation with the liquid shrooms.

The package sat on my desk for two weeks, each of us not acknowledging the other.

I took it home under the cover of darkness (perfect for mushrooms, no?) and placed it on a table near the dining room. The family asked what was in the package and demurred when asked if they were up for a taste of any one of the drinks. It sat for another two weeks, unacknowledged again.

I needed to photograph it. I figured if I accomplished that I was halfway there.

Summoning up courage, I arranged the samples and filled a cup with mushroom coffee. I took the photos. It was now do or die time.

I lifted the cup and took a sip. Hmm, not what I was expecting.

The coffee with lion’s mane and chaga mushrooms was mellow and pleasant with no need for sweetener. The same for the coffee with cordyceps and chaga.

The cocoa drink with reishi and cinnamon was reminiscent of Mexican chocolate, but less sweet and with a bite.

Sliding from mellow and pleasant to a hard-edged cocoa, my taste buds were unprepared as the chaga mushroom drink hit them.

The taste will take a few tries to be acceptable to your tongue. It’s not for the faint-hearted. I’m trying to put my finger on the taste – maybe Jägermeister without the sweetness. I’ve tasted it before in a tincture. Try offsetting the bitterness with a scone … with butter.

It is suggested to be taken in the morning to provide your body’s defenses with “bulletproof immunity,” according to Four Sigmatic’s literature. And the company doesn’t seem to be off the mark in its claim.

According to the online “Chaga Mushroom Guide”:

“Chaga is used for the treatment of many forms of cancers and tumors in the Siberian regions. It is also used for treating digestive disorders as well as different kinds of bacterial and viral infections. The local people in the Siberian Mountains prepare it in powder form and drink it as tea. They also inhaled its smoke and apply it to their skin to heal their rashes and skin injuries.

Due to their regular consumption of Chaga, these indigenous people have very low oncologic diseases. Many of them have been documented to live for over 100 years.”

Bottom line: Give the shroom drinks a try. They might grow on you.

For more, visit foursigmafoods.com.

—Bob Rozycki

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