Thirteenth-generation-farmer-turned-mycologist and self-styled “funguy” Tero Isokauppila grew up foraging mushrooms with his mother in rural Finland. “We would pick porcini and chanterelles which she made into mushroom soup or sauce for steaks,” he says, “But I didn’t learn about the medicinal, or the psychedelic, properties of mushrooms until much later.” The spore of an idea had taken hold however, and after studying chemistry and plant-based nutrition at Cornell University, Isokauppila went on to found the cult medicinal mushroom purveyor Four Sigmatic, whose shroom-infused beverages are now sold everywhere from finger-on-the-pulse wellness destinations like CAP Beauty and The Alchemist’s Kitchen, to retail giant Amazon, where they are the number-one bestseller in the cold-brew coffee sector.
A look inside the Shroom RoomPhoto: Dana Arnold / Courtesy of Shroom Room
With the supernaturally glowy skin, clear eyes, and positive energy of a modern-day wellness guru, Isokauppila is on a mission to spread the word about fungi, and this summer the recent California transplant opened the Shroom Room, a medicinal mushroom café on Los Angeles’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard. “I wanted to create something for the community that brought ancient mushroom wisdom to modern lifestyle,” he says. “And what could be more Venice than wandering in here after a yoga class and walking out knowing how to make reishi lemonade?” Designed to look like a magical birch tree house (Finland’s national tree), the whimsical space offers free chaga chais, Cordyceps lattes, and lion’s mane matcha teas to the myco-curious and an opportunity to learn more about the health benefits of these often overlooked adaptogenic superfoods—which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, lower cholesterol levels in the body, reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system, regulate blood sugar, and boost energy levels. (An adaptogenic food helps the body regulate itself and resist the effects of stress.)
“Mushrooms are used in extensively not just in Chinese medicine but also in more than 40 percent of Western pharmaceuticals,” he says. “I prefer to eat or drink my medicine so coffee was a natural starting point. People love their morning cup of coffee and adding in some medicinal mushrooms is an easy upgrade that turns a guilty caffeine habit into a nourishing ritual.” This idea of food as medicine is also apparent in Isokauppila’s latest endeavor, a book called Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health, which hit shelves this month. “Mushrooms are incredibly versatile when it comes to cooking,” he says. “So we developed recipes that are not only delicious, but harness their healing properties.” What you’ll find in the book therefore are recipes using both the kind of mushrooms you might find in your local (gourmet) supermarket—shiitake, oyster, and enoki—and the lesser-known superfood varieties like tremella, turkey tail, and maitake (available in dry and powdered form), to make everything from oyster mushroom risotto for immune support and shiitake croutons for skin health to “shroomy” lion’s mane ice cream to improve memory and even a cocktail called Cordysex on the Beach to increase energy.