Superfood Coffees: Is the Hype Real?

Early last autumn, I had predicted that we were at the cusp of a new-age era of caffeine-free “coffees,” as attractive as they would be wacky.

And sure enough, it was only a matter of time before the traffic-colour-trio (beetroot, turmeric and matcha lattes respectively) were joined by a host of equally colourful new concoctions, suffused with all sorts of superfoods from algae to mushroom and pitaya (we had to Google the last one too)…

Our interest piqued – fellow epicures, Shruuti, Ria and I recently assembled at Planet Organic, which have introduced a new range of “Rainbow Lattes” designed to provide an added health boost.

The store is incredibly on-trend at the moment, as they have a “mushroom latte” in the mix too. In case you hadn’t heard, mushrooms are apparently the superfood of 2017 – a trend which just goes to exemplify the power of good marketing.


By way of background: Four Sigmatic, a Finnish company specialising in ‘shroom-infused coffees are behind the recent spotlight, touting that their products can boost brainpower and enhance productivity, and all without the side-effects associated with excessive regular consumption of caffeine. In case you’re wondering how it works, they essentially boil and liquify dried wild-harvested mushrooms, adding the extract to mild Arabica beans from Central America.

The verdict has been… mixed, to say the least. Both in terms of taste, as well as in terms of actual health benefits of Four Sigmatic’s coffee.

Sure, there is some evidence in favour of regulated blood sugar levels (courtesy maitake mushrooms) or improved digestion (attributed to the chaga variety). Equally, these fungi are not without their own set of potential side-effects and interactions, reflected in a recognised list of do’s and don’ts. Maitake mushrooms could for instance, have an adverse interaction with diabetes or blood pressure-related meds.

Eschewing Four Sigmatic’s instant coffee mix, we decided to form our opinion on flavour based on the mushroom latte at Planet Organic, featuring reishi and lion’s mane (a cursory Google search confirmed the herbal properties of both). While the coconut mylk-base went some way in offsetting the bitter aftertaste, it was simply too strong and earthy for us (and that’s putting it mildly)…

Concurring that we’ll stick to a more edible consumption of this superfood in the future, we swiftly moved on to an E3 Latte, a combination of brown rice milk and E3 Live (a nutrient-dense and protein-rich blue green algae).


It didn’t really have a distinctive taste, with the nutty flavours of the “milk” proving a tad overpowering. Going by Time Out Melbourne’s take on the original “smurf” latte, we’re definitely not the only ones underwhelmed by this blue-hued drink.

We fared much better with the pitaya latte.

There was simply an instant appeal to this utterly bonkers blend of raw cacao butter, hazelnut milk and dragon fruit! It was soothingly warming on a blustery February evening, yet had an exotic touch which had us imagining ourselves in more tropical climes…

The pretty-in-pink theme manifested itself earlier this week too, in the form of a beetroot, i.e. red velvet latte (at Holborn Grind, an urban-hipster hangout near my office).

That wasn’t the end of it though, as I discovered the existence of activated charcoal lattes in London too. (For the unfamiliar, the blackened residue is also professed to be a powerhouse of benefits, from aiding digestion and cleansing the body of toxins and impurities, to doubling up as a hangover cure.)


I’m not sure whether I fully buy into the “superfoods” status of most of these new-age “coffees”.

They’re definitely interesting to try once from an epicurious perspective, or to sip on from time to time for a feel-good, caffeine-free boost. Not to mention their certain Instagram appeal (#priorities)…

There are likely far tastier, less intrusive and/ or more sustainable ways to just as effectively incorporate these wondrous elements into our daily diets. I’m not quite sure how much real impact a sporadic algae latte is going to have on my health, but if its benefits are to believed, perhaps the supplement might blend well into my morning smoothie instead?

Similarly with turmeric.

Like most Indians, I can’t help but be slightly tickled by the increasingly trendy status of the so-called Golden Lattes – there was nothing so glamorous about simple haldi doodh  (turmeric mixed into a full-fat buffalo milk) when we were growing up!

I’ll admit, the deliciously-soothing lift on this golden spice is quite a treat if I’m feeling low or under the weather (I’m partial to the versions at MAE Deli or Parcafe at the Dorchester), but I probably derive more long-term benefits from adding turmeric to every day-cooking at home. It imparts only  a mild flavour and can be used across a variety of dishes from eggs and tofu to soups, stir-fries and even marinades.

The only coffee I would perhaps take more seriously, is a matcha latte.

Made by grinding the entire leaf, matcha is the most concentrated form of green tea that you can get. One serving is estimated to be nutritionally equivalent to around 10 cups of regularly brewed green tea and packed with 137 times more antioxidants… And with the likes of Tsujiri (a 155 year-old premium tea brand from Kyoto) now in London, its quite possible to now find the real deal – as opposed to the overly sweet or watered down versions often served up on the high street.

What’s your take on this world of new-age superfood coffees?

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  1. The Wayfarer

    I agree that it’s mostly just marketing. It sounds like a lot of these flavors aren’t even that good on their own… Why not just cook with them and put the flavors to good use? There are probably tastier ways to make colorful lattes for Instagram 😉

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