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Wunderground Aims to be Seattle’s Next Coffee Evolution

Founder of Wunderground Coffee Jody Hall believes coffee and adaptogenic mushroom blends are the next big thing in coffee

Mushrooms are everywhere, in seasonal dishes and in national headlines. In the Pacific Northwest, fall is prime time for wild foragers of chanterelles, porcinis, lobster mushrooms, and more. The “magical” kind is also having a moment; last month, Seattle joined a growing number of cities that have decriminalized psilocybin and other psychedelics.

Then there’s another kind of (non-hallucinogenic) mushroom magic that, when added to coffee, could be the next big thing in coffee culture. At least, that’s the bold prediction from Wunderground Coffee’s Jody Hall. And considering Hall’s 30-plus years in Seattle’s coffee scene — including time spent founding companies Cupcake Royale and The Goodship — it’s an instinct worth heeding.

Wunderground adds adaptogenic mushrooms like lion’s mane, cordyceps, reishi, and chaga to its coffee. Adaptogenic is a term for natural substances that have a calming or otherwise beneficial effect on bodily functions — and it’s one consumers have been seeing more and more of. Adaptogens may seem like a rising trend, found on the labels of an ever-growing number of slickly bottled beverages, including coffee. But to call such an embrace of mushrooms a health fad would be wrong: These mushrooms have been used in China, Japan, and other Asian countries for centuries. Reishi in particular has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes for thousands of years.

“[Adaptogenic mushrooms] have massive power,” Hall says. “The west is just waking up to this.”

To develop its mushroom-infused coffee, Wunderground spent two years vetting and developing a relationship with a supplier of organic, wood-grown mushrooms in China, that uses only the fruiting bodies as opposed to the roots. With food scientists and beverage developers on its team, Wunderground officially launched as an online store over the summer, offering ground and instant coffee (including coffee without mushrooms), as well as mushroom teas. The company opened its Capitol Hill flagship store on Halloween weekend, giving away free coffee and swag and debuting a menu with sandwiches, grain bowls, bone broths, and more.

According to Hall, adaptogenic mushrooms aren’t just for the health nut anymore, but for daily coffee drinkers. “We’re going after everybody who loves coffee and wants to feel a little better,” Hall says. “We’re in an age where loneliness, depression, anxiety are at record highs… mushrooms actually act almost like a thermostat in your body. Stress and cortisol — it just helps to level you out.”

A woman in a blue hoodie and black beanie holds a large chanterelle mushroom in her hands. She has her arm around a smiling child.
Wunderground Coffee founder Jody Hall and her daughter Lark foraging for chanterelles.
Kelly Ring

Wunderground prioritized creating a delicious cup of coffee, a crowd-pleasing medium roast of Guatemalan and Colombian beans that’s great on its own or with additives, in which any mushroom flavors would be mostly unnoticeable. “It’s very faint,” says Hall of the mushroom flavor, saying that in a blind taste test, “you might be able to notice.” However, thanks to the mushrooms, “you do not feel the jitters. It just helps to kind of tidy up your caffeine,” she says.

Joining Starbucks in 1989, Hall eventually ended up in the marketing department, helping expand the company from 30 to 3,000 stores over her 11 years there. In 2003, Hall launched Cupcake Royale, Seattle’s first cupcake-only bakery, that grew into a local chain. With the legalization of marijuana in Washington state, Hall also launched The Goodship in 2015, an edibles company that was bought by a private equity firm in 2017.

Wunderground is Hall’s direct return to the coffee industry, a scene she says is ripe for a new direction. “Even though we drink more cups of coffee per capita than any other city in the United States, we just haven’t evolved the coffee house,” she says.

Though Wunderground has just gotten off the ground, Hall anticipates shops with coffee and mushroom blends will be “the next wave of cafe that you see.”