"We've introduced coffee with benefits," says Walsh of the Peak State Coffee catalog. "It's high-quality coffee with powerful health benefits from nature for your brain, immunity, and stress -- all from adaptogenic mushrooms."
And it's whole bean coffee, as well. There are no powdered mushroom stems or caps within Walsh's bags of coffee, contributing towards the "stale, chalky" flavor Walsh noticed in other mushroom coffees brands on the market. "They all tasted bad," says Walsh of his competitors. "I said, 'How do I make this better?'"
Working with his friend and co-founder, Carl Bailey, the two put their heads together -- both informed by their respective engineering degrees -- to solve the taste dilemma. Creating their own specially-designed mixing machine, they devised a patent-pending method of infusing coffee beans with mushroom extracts. The mushroom extract coats the beans -- and, as Walsh has discovered, it actually penetrates the bean to some extent, as well. "It turns out coffee beans can be a bit absorbent and take on a botanical solution," says Walsh.
Repeated third-party testing ensures the company continues to meet the mark in successfully infusing coffee beans with healthy beta-glucans -- those "immune supportive compounds" found in mushrooms, says Walsh. "You're getting 1,000 milligrams for every two cups."
Walsh sells bags of his coffee at farmer's markets, as well as providing a mail-order subscription service. That's translated into 10,000 individual customers. And, presently, about 300 mail-order subscribers, although Walsh says, "We hope to be over 1,000 by the end of the year."
Each bag of coffee contains organic, shade-grown, single-origin beans which Walsh infuses with Oregon-grown organic mushrooms which have been "triple-extracted using heat and alcohol and fermentation into one of the most potent extracts out there." Walsh pairs roast levels -- which determine the amount of caffeine in the coffee -- together with the types of mushrooms he hopes will contribute a specific health benefit. For instance, there's a lightly-roasted Ethiopian variety, containing the highest amount of caffeine of his offerings, blended together with lion's mane and cordyceps mushrooms for "focus and natural energy." And a dark roast Colombian with reishi and chaga mushrooms which might help a consumer address stress levels.
An autoimmune disorder led Walsh onto the path he's on today. "I was told by doctors I had gut-health issues and needed to manage my stress," he says. Subsequently, while working outdoors clearing trails in New Hampshire, he learned about the health benefits of chaga mushrooms which grow on trees in the state. He began brewing chaga into tea -- and soon began feeling much healthier. But Walsh prefers java to tea. "I'm just a coffee guy," he says.
Instead of giving up coffee entirely, Walsh set out to consume it in a more mindful manner. "Adaptogenic mushrooms balance out some of these conventional jitters we're used to with coffee," says Walsh. "And then our coffee being, also, sustainably-grown makes it less acidic. So, less downsides: less acidity, fewer jitters."
And -- to go along with those mushrooms' benefits and Walsh's inventiveness -- there's been acclaim, as well. This year, Peak State Coffee won Naturally Boulder's Pitch Slam competition, resulting in nearly $200,000 worth of resources for the company, in terms of "branding, graphic design, strategy, legal coaching," Walsh notes. "For the first time ever, we're going to be able to get to do some marketing."
"We're a brand that wants to help people be healthier, every day," says Walsh. "You know, it's easy to forget a vitamin or supplement -- but if you're a coffee drinker, you never forget your morning coffee."
Challenges: "We're still small," notes Walsh. "And funding has really dried up and CPG natural products." He adds how, "We've just been growing through word of mouth and people discovering us. It's a lot slower that way."
Opportunities: "The biggest opportunity I see is this rising tide of people really interested in mushrooms right now," says Walsh, noting how the tide is turning from the general public consisting mostly of mycophobes into, now, mycophiles. "We're going through a mushroom renaissance."
Needs: "We just need people to know about us and try us out," says Walsh.