Not that kind of magic mushroom

Janice Lockington sells "healthy coffee" at her new Whitehorse cafe. The special ingredient in her brew is Ganoderma lucidum, also known as the reishi mushroom. The shiny, red, kidney-shaped mushroom has long been revered by the Chinese for its health benefits.

Janice Lockington sells “healthy coffee” at her new Whitehorse cafe.

The special ingredient in her brew is Ganoderma lucidum, also known as the reishi mushroom. The shiny, red, kidney-shaped mushroom has long been revered by the Chinese for its health benefits.

“It boosts your immune system. It’s an oxygenate. It’s a naturally detoxifier. It’s really good for your brain,” said Lockington.

She’s careful to not make specific medical claims. But online reishi purveyors assert the fungus can help with everything from cholesterol to AIDS and cancer. There’s little scientific evidence to substantiate these claims.

What’s indisputable is that the global market for medicinal mushrooms is a billion-dollar industry. Equally indisputable, said Lockington, is that the coffee makes her feel good.

Now she has a venue to sell it. Earlier this month, Lockington opened Reishi Cafe inside Whitehorse’s two-storey Log Skyscraper on Lambert Street.

A coffee costs $3. Java snobs may turn up their noses when they see the brew comes in a packet. Lockington tears one open, pours brown powder into a cup of hot water and stirs.

Lockington insists it’s not the same as instant coffee: “It’s not crystallized, dehydrated, chemical-added,” she said.

Rather, coffee is brewed and dried. The mushroom extract is later added to prevent it from spoiling.

Lockington also sells mochas and lattes, but these are also powdered drinks, cut with sugar and coffee creamer.

Lockington hopes to sell real, brewed Ganoderma coffee in five months.

Coffee is frequently shunned by adherents to naturopathy, who view tea as a healthier alternative. But Ganoderma “neutralizes the caffeine and acid” in coffee, said Lockington.

As well, the coffee she sells is “100 per cent organic.”

Besides selling coffee, Lockington also offers Ganoderma-infused hot chocolate and green tea, as well as toothpaste, soap and capsules that contain the fungus.

The cafe also has cookies and muffins on offer, but they don’t contain any special ingredients. They’re from Superstore. Lockington hopes to partner with a local baker soon.

Lockington estimates she’s served 150 customers since opening earlier this month. For now, her store is only open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. By May, she hopes to also be open from Monday to Wednesday.

This is Lockington’s second job. She also works full-time for Air North as an interior mechanic: she’s the person who installs and repairs the seats and other furnishings of a plane.

“Anything inside the plane, I fix it,” she said.

Despite holding down two jobs, Lockington, 42, is cheerful and chirpy. “It must be the coffee,” she said with a laugh.

“I always say, it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey. And I’m just on a great journey, and I want to take as many people with me as I can.”

All of Lockington’s mushroom-related products are produced by Organogold. The company mixes aspirational, self-help messages with the promise that loyal followers will become rich.

As an Organogold distributor for the past two years, Lockington has attended conferences in Houston and Las Vegas, where she’s met hundreds of fellow mushroom marketers.

“You get into a room of two or three thousand people who are all happy and healthy – there’s not too much complaining going on. It’s a lot of fun.”

Organogold uses a multi-level marketing strategy. Critics of such companies liken them to pyramid schemes.

It’s cheaper to buy coffee from Lockington by the box. Or, better yet, to become a distributor yourself.

You receive a commission for each new person you sign up. Bring in enough people, and you earn a cut of their sales, too.

No wonder Organogold distributors have flooded the internet with claims that, as one put it, the company offers “health and wealth in a cup.”

The words “happy,”“healthy” and “wealthy” frequently appear in Organogold testimonials. Lockington is no exception. She says Organogold helped her find herself.

“It’s taught me to not be so afraid of things. It’s just changed me. I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I’m doing something that I really like. Everyone wants to be healthy, wealthy and happy, right?”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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