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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Wake Up and Smell the (Funky Fungi) Coffee of Immortality

The latest health food trend (in America) is Mushroom Coffee; coffee spiked with Asian medicinal mushrooms. I was debating whether or not to order some from i-Herb, but it's pretty expensive and I am not sure of whether or not its medicinal properties are lost during processing and if I might find something cheaper and purer right where I'm at. For example, the medicinal mushrooms in America are really mycelium grown on grain. According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), medicinal mushrooms should be grown without chemicals and those that grow wildly on wood (like Reishi) should be cultivated on wood, as the different trees produce subtle differences of medicinal applications. 

Reishi Coffee from Nantou
The medicinal mushrooms in such coffee are usually including Lion's Mane猴頭菇, Cordyceps蟲草  (冬蟲夏草), Chaga白樺茸, Turkey Tails雲芝 and Reishi 靈芝.The health benefits are increased mental alertness (without jitters or insomnia), and a power shot of adaptogens, anti-oxidants and anti-carcinogens.

The other week, Z and I watched an awesome documentary (Himalayan Gold) on Discovery Asia about the cordycep pickers of Nepal. It's a mushroom that grows out of a body of a caterpillar and also one of the 'magic' medicinal mushrooms in TCM  (and in the latest mushroom coffee fad of the West).

The more I learn about mushrooms, the more I realize how much I don't really know. Thankfully my friend and former body combat sparring partner Erin, helped me find some local shrooms. 
Lion's Mane猴頭菇 and Cordyceps蟲草 are very common in Taiwan. Fresh Lion's Mane can be ordered from Fengnian Farm in Puli or occasionally you can see them at major supermarkets. It looks pretty far out, as its furry (it's also called Bear's Head in North America) and looks more like cauliflower than fungi.

 I have experimented with cooking with fresh Lion's Mane and use it as with any mushroom. I prefer to saute it with butter and garlic and have added it in to creamy pasta, sandwiches and omelets. It has a consistency and texture much like scallops. It's no wonder it's also called the 'Lobster of the Wood.' 

Above:Creamy Pasta with Lion's Mane and goji berry
Below: Lion's Mane upclose

Reishi in TCM is known as the "mushroom of immortality" as its a powerful tonic and immunity booster. That same Fengnian Farm does sell organic Reisi mushroom (Ganoderma antlers) coffee and it's not cheap- a packet of 10 little satchels is 270 NT (plus shipping). Unfortunately, it's watered down with powdered creamer and sugar. I'm drinking a cup right now and it tastes like any instant coffee with creamer and sugar, with just the slightest aroma of mushroom. I prefer my coffee black but this is still palatable.

 I feel like the reishi does give me more stamina (rather than quick energy) and I drink it when I have a particularly heavy schedule (7 back to back classes and running errands on my lunch break) or after a stressful previous evening (my last night). For more on the benefits of reishi read here.

Taiwanese use Reishi 靈芝 in chicken soup the same as dried Cordyceps冬蟲夏草 . Both are very expensive and  can be found in all quality Chinese Herb/medicine shops.

Turkey Tail 
雲芝 mushroom is the rarest. It is also found in the best TCM  herbal shops.  My next mission will be to check out the local herb apothecaries and see what fungi I can experiment with.

I still might order this, energizing hot cocoa with reishi and cordyceps,
30 servings for 300NT via iHerb. Use my reward code(LRF400) and we both get 5% off our next order.
(For the record "magic" psychadelic mushrooms are available in Taiwan but not as commonly used recreationally as at home or SE Asia, yet they are known to be enjoyed by artists and bohemians every now and again).

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