Move over matcha, here comes the mushroom latte

This modern 'elixir' contains cayenne pepper to boost the metabolism: but does it work?
This modern 'elixir' contains cayenne pepper to boost the metabolism: but does it work? Photo: Supplied

Move aside matcha, take a step back turmeric, it's time to make way for a new shade of grey - mushroom lattes.

Yes, that's right, 'shrooms are the latest super-food sip of choice, containing nutrients claimed to offer a natural energy boost and medicinal benefits. 

Well, that is, according to Four Sigmatic a Finnish company leading the movement with their coffee and hot chocolate mixes made of wild mushroom extract and fungi parasite "cordyceps" (essentially parasitic fungi that grows on insects).

A mushroom latte from Matcha Mylkbar.
A mushroom latte from Matcha Mylkbar. Photo: Supplied

While it sounds a little unsavoury, fear not, no visible fungi is likely to be seen floating in your mug. The coffee is made by isolating the chaga mushroom's key compounds, then spray-drying them and combining with cordyceps to create a drinkable powder.

The brew itself is said to boost immunity and productivity, with chaga boasting an impressive nutritional profile – so much so, Australian cafes are now taking note, serving mugs of bespoke mushroom blends to willing health circles.

In Sydney, organic apothecary and ayurvedic cafe Orchard Street offers an "immune shroom" coffee with three types of mushrooms – reishi, maitake, shiitake – all claiming immune-boosting powers.

Melbourne's Matcha Mylkbar offers a sweeter blend with chaga mushroom alongside vanilla essence, coconut milk and brown rice malt.

In terms of global appeal however, the verdict is still out. Australian chef and author of The Healthy Cook Dan Churchill is yet to notice the trend in his New York base.

"While I was fortunate to come across it a few months ago and sample some packets, mushroom coffee is yet to take off in NYC," he says. "Overall it hasn't enticed me to mix up my morning routine – I still love my long black."

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However, some of the health claims may be valid, Churchill says.

"Perhaps the benefits of mushrooms could make it a better hangover beverage? With high levels of selenium, strong antioxidant powers and minerals that assist the liver in detoxing alcohol from the body, perhaps that's where its niche market could be?"

For now, he believes there is enough to gain from their natural state.

"At this stage of the game, I am happy cooking up a healthy serving of king, enoki or button mushrooms for breakfast and walking to work with a coffee in hand. After all, mushrooms alone can offer cancer-preventing activities, oxygen uptake and regulate blood flow."

In fact, fungi in all shapes and forms is gaining attention serious scientific attention.

A recent study from Malaysia's University of Malaya discovered certain anti-inflammatory compounds in edible mushrooms have the potential to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

Their research determined mushrooms to be a "functional food" alongside green tea, ginkgo and turmeric, not only able to surpass basic nutrition but exhibit antioxidant, antiviral, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating, anti-microbial​ and anti-diabetic activities.

Magical, huh? And we're not even talking about a hallucinogenic variety. Wild and lesser-known edible varieties offer natural benefits and with more than 17 types in Australia alone, there is sure to be one that will suit even the most wary of palates.

So which mushies should we be munching on regularly and how? We've compiled a list of the best beneficial mushrooms plus a recipe for how to cook them this autumn.

The cream of the crop

Reishi

Long revered in Asia as "the medicine of kings" reishi is known as the immortality mushroom, thanks to polysaccharides touted to extend life and fight cancer. Boasting a strong flavour, it's best reserved for tea or in super-food supplements or protein powders.

Best for: Longevity, detoxing and overall health.

Chaga

Chaga, the main variety used in mushroom lattes, is a so-called "adaptogen" that works to calm the nervous system and act as a natural stress remedy. With high antioxidant values, it claims anti-ageing properties and can help inhibit cancer growth. Best consumed in coffee or tea.

Best for: Stress, anti-ageing and overall health.

Shiitake

One of the oldest known mushrooms, dating back 6000 years, shiitake is a nutritional powerhouse that contains a wide range of essential vitamins - including B, B2, B6, vitamin D, folate, fibre, zinc and iron. It is believed to support immune function and assist cardiovascular issues such as atherosclerosis by reducing a build up of fatty substances on the arteries. Often sold dried, shiitake are best hydrated in boiling water then served in a stir-fry or curry.

Best for: Heart health, iron deficiency and overall health.

Maitake

Known in Japan as the "dancing mushroom", maitake is celebrated for its ability to control glucose levels and lower blood pressure, thereby lowering risk of diabetes and heart disease. Like other mushrooms, it contains polysaccharides that may help immune function and prevent cancer. Maitake mushrooms are best sauteed in butter as a side.

Best for: Stabilising blood pressure, glucose levels and overall health.

Portobello

Also known as button mushrooms, portabello are rich in B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, and are low in calories and high in fibre, making them a great weight-loss food. Notably, they contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) touted to reduce estrogen levels and combat breast, ovarian and uterine cancer in women. Eat grilled as a burger, a meat replacement in sauces or sauteed as a side dish.

Best for: Women's health, weight loss and overall health.

Sexy, clean chicken and mushroom noodle soup from Daniel Churchill

Daniel Churchill's soup with chicken and mushrooms. Photo: Supplied

Chicken and mushroom noodle soup from Daniel Churchill

Ingredients

6 bone-in chicken thighs, fat trimmed

1 onion, chopped

1 knob ginger, grated

3 garlic cloves, grated

1 long red chilli

1 bay leaf

salt

pepper

juice of half a lemon

brown rice vermicelli noodles

2 cups button mushrooms

2 cups kale, washed and shredded (or any lettuce-like leaf)

Method

1. In a large pot add the chicken, onion, ginger, garlic, chilli and bay leaf. Cover with 10 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover with lid and turn heat to low to allow to simmer for three hours.

2. Remove chicken to a chopping board, discarding the bones and keeping the meat whole.

3. Strain the broth into a large bowl, discarding the solids, then pour the broth back into the pot.

4. In a bowl, soak the vermicelli noodles in cold water for 20 minutes.

5. Bring the broth back to a boil on medium heat, add the mushrooms, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste, then add the chicken to keep it warm.

6. Divide the noodles and kale evenly among soup bowls, ladle the broth on top, then top with mushrooms and chicken.