"There is a growing body of evidence that shows how beneficial functional mushrooms can be to the health of the mind and body,” said Ramzy Abueita, founder of Myco Cafe (pictured here). Credit: Jessica Mordacq

Last November, Proposition 122 passed in Colorado, decriminalizing the possession and use of psilocybin and psilocin “magic” mushrooms. Inspired by the changing landscape around fungi and its beneficial properties, Ramzy Abueita, 28, a Boulder psychedelic decriminalization activist, made a career transition. 

Abueita, who graduated from the University of Michigan with a neuroscience degree, had for a while been nurturing the idea of opening a coffee shop with a twist. 

Six months after the election, he launched one that specializes in mushroom-infused products. His products don’t contain any psychedelic properties. But by incorporating mushrooms into coffee creations, Abueita aims to provide customers with a unique – even “magical” – experience, he said. 

“There is a growing body of evidence that shows how beneficial functional mushrooms can be to the health of the mind and body,” Abueita said of fungi, with supposed perks beyond nutritional value. He explained that mycelium — the root structure of mushrooms — looks like the networks of neurons and blood vessels in our bodies.

“There’s something magical about the mycelial archetype that connects the entire ecosystem with our own nervous system and physiology.” 

On May 1, 2023, Abueita opened Myco Cafe at 1629 28th Street, Colorado’s first exclusively mushroom-themed coffee shop. So far, business has been steady in health-conscious Boulder, Abueita said. 

“It’s a testament to how much this community loves mushrooms,” Abueita said. “If there’s any place in the world that a mushroom cafe would work, it’s Boulder.”

Myco Cafe’s menu features standard coffee shop options that customers can choose to infuse with any combination of four types of organic mushroom extracts. The most-popular menu items, Abueita said, are non-caffeinated: a cacao drink, smoothies and the turmeric golden latte, which combines spices and milk. 

Myco Cafe is in some ways part of the changing world of magic mushrooms, since psilocybin and Abueita’s decriminalization work were catalysts in the coffee shop’s inception. But Prop 122 didn’t legalize the sale of psilocybin, and Abueita doesn’t foresee adding the drug to the menu any time soon.

The coffee shop sells a handful of whole mushrooms – like dried reishi to use in tea, plus lion’s mane, oyster, enoki and beech mushrooms for cooking – from Boulder Mushroom, a mycology center that develops and cultivates fungi. Fort Lupton, Colorado-based Mycolove Farm created the mushroom extract that Myco Cafe uses. 

Though it’s still an active area of study, mushrooms have long been thought to provide myriad health benefits, from alleviating digestive problems and anxiety to improving cognitive decline and concentration. Fungi have been used in Chinese medicine and across Eastern cultures for thousands of years. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have examined mushrooms’ antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved mushroom supplements as safe or effective to treat health conditions or disease. (On its website, Mycolove Farm says its products “have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration” and states that they are “NOT intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Abueita said Myco Cafe also doesn’t claim that the extracts cure or prevent any disease — nor, he said, are they intended as substitutes for medical advice.)  

Mycolove Farm — founded in 2021 by four mushroom enthusiasts, including Jake Plummer, a former Denver Broncos quarterback — developed its mushroom extraction process over six years, according to the company. 

Its lion’s mane mushroom extract has a high 40% concentration of beta-glucan, or soluble fiber, which Abueita said has been shown in studies to help improve immune system function. 

Lion’s mane mushrooms also contain compounds that have been linked to improved brain health, cognitive function and nerve growth. Like the other mushrooms, it has not been approved by the FDA for supplement use, though it has been for food consumption.  

Its turkey tail mushroom extract, which Myco Cafe also sells, is believed to contain beta-glucans, as well as polyphenols, which Abueita said are full of antioxidants. Cordyceps mushrooms are thought to improve energy and endurance, while reishi mushroom extract is thought to benefit the cardiovascular system by reducing stress.

Abueita requires Myco Cafe staff to have knowledge of functional mushrooms and their potential benefits so they can educate customers on these health properties. 

“I’m hoping that this place can be a resource,” he said. 

‘Community hub for the world of mushrooms’

Abueita searched for locations around Boulder for Myco Cafe and chose the 28th Street property — the former home to Edible Arrangements because it was move-in ready. 

Abueita wants to renovate, transforming the back room into an event space, a location for locals to host workshops related to mycelium — like classes on mushroom identification or foraging — – as well as open-mic events and small shows. 

“Anybody in the community who wants to use the space is welcome to use it,” Abueita said. The room will initially be free to reserve.   

Myco Cafe also has a small library with books and for-sale art, much of it mushroom-themed, in the front-of-house coffee shop. 

In addition to helping local artists gain exposure in town and sell their work, Abueita wants his coffee shop to serve as a space for locals to explore their intellectual curiosities — like the old-time salons of Europe, but with mushrooms in the mix. 

“My big hope for the space is for it to be a community hub for the world of mushrooms,” Abueita said, “a place that harkens back to the old-school coffee shop culture of the Arab world and Europe, where people could come and have conversation and talk philosophy, politics and science, a place where the renaissance can be alive.”

Jessica Mordacq is a contributor to Boulder Reporting Lab focused on local food and drink coverage. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, she graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has previously written for various trade and lifestyle magazines. Email: jessica@boulderreportinglab.org.

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