Wellness Wins: I've been drinking Shroom cacao for a year now and it's boosted my calm tenfold

Trending fad or must-try?

Dirtea Cacao review: A close up shot of the packaging
(Image credit: Future)
Reasons to buy
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    It's creamy, chocolatey and delicious

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    It promises to promote deep restorative sleep

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    It contains immune-boosting adaptogens and 2,500mg of mushrooms per serving

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    It's been lab tested.

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    It's definitely an investment

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    More regulation needs to happen industry-wide to guarantee effective functional mushroom dosages in products.

Mushrooms are having a moment - quite literally, with Google search for "functional mushrooms" and "lions mane" at breakout. Wondering whether it's time to up your supplement game? As a Health Editor who tests wellness products day in, day out for a living, I know it can be hard to cut through the noise and decipher which new trending wellness products are genuinely worth your money. Which is where my new franchise Wellness Wins comes in - an in-depth review of the products I've tried and tested over several months (sometimes even years) and always come back to. Up first? This Dirtea cacao review.

Rewind a bit first, though. If you've seen 'shrooms and cacao on many a 2024 trend report but never tried either yourself, a bit of background for you. As per the Dirtea website, mushrooms are as old as the earth (1.3 billion years old, to be exact) and an essential part of our ecosystem. While there are 1000s of different mushroom species, only a few types - Reishi, lion's mane, cordyceps, and turkey tail, among others - are classified as "functional", in other words, scientifically identified as being beneficial to our health. (Some sources even say functional mushrooms contain "super nutrients"). The appetite for functional 'shrooms only looks set to continue, too, with documentaries like Netflix's Fantastic Fungi helping to grow the market (as per Newswire, the global functional mushroom market is thought to surpass 19 billion dollars by 2030).  

Cacao, on the other hand, is an ancient bean that played an integral part in many religious ceremonies and social gatherings for the people of Mesoamerica including the Olmecs, Maya, and Aztecs. Considered to be a gift from the gods, humans are thought to have consumed it since at least as early as 460 CE. 

Dirtea's product is a hybrid of the two, bringing together the immunity-boosting benefits of mushrooms and the calming impact of cacao. Wondering if there's any veracity in the product's claims or how supplementing a cacao-shroom hybrid could boost your daily wellbeing? Good question. Keep scrolling to read my full review, plus two nutritionists' take. 

So, what exactly is Dirtea Cacao? 

The brainchild of brothers Andrew and Simon, the Dirtea brand was born back in 2016 after they experienced the many health benefits of functional mushroom products first-hand. Dedicating their lives to sharing those benefits with others and, in turn, launching the Dirtea brand, they regularly appear on panels and at festivals spreading the word (including speaking at Meta and on Fearne Cotton's Happy Place podcast). 

On their site, they detail dedicating years to finding the best farms, foragers and mycologists, resulting in, in their own words, the "purest and most potent mushroom from forest to cup." Benefits they rave about on the website span increased calm, boosted energy, improved focus, and increased libido. 

While they have other products available on-site, the cacao, in particular, first piqued my interest (health-boosted hot chocolate FTW). It's what they call a "super blend" - in layman's terms, a mix of raw and organic cacao and mushrooms tremella, reishi, and lion's mane. Also in your packet is coconut milk powder, moringa, MCT and pink Himalayan salt, bringing the total number of ingredients to eight. 

Promising to support immune health, enhance beauty (a big claim, but one I'll dig into more later in the article) and promote deep restorative sleep, you'll be drinking 2500mg of mushrooms per cup. According to Clarissa Berry, nutritionist at the brand, this specific product is different from other cacao and mushroom products on the market because of the quality of the ingredients. "The primary ingredient is ceremonial-grade cacao - the highest quality cacao, made from 100% pure, organic beans and containing the richest concentrations of active ingredients," she shares. 

So, what does this mean when you drink it? "Cacao is a superfood with numerous benefits, nutritionally rich in minerals such as potassium, copper, zinc and magnesium, and a potent source of antioxidants," she shares. "Research has shown cacao to reduce inflammation in the body, improve circulation and blood pressure, support neurological health and memory, and even enhance mood."

Now, onto the 'shrooms. As we've touched on above, the product contains 2500mg of functional mushrooms per serving, including reishi, tremella and lion’s mane. "Reishi is well-documented to improve sleep quality, improve stress tolerance and boost immunity, whereas tremella and lion’s mane have both been seen to boost cognition and brain health."

Bottom line: the blend promises to contain a high dose of essential minerals, antioxidants and health-boosting compounds. "The benefits it provides go beyond your normal cup of hot chocolate due to the richness of nutrients and active compounds, lack of conventional additions like sugar, and its carefully crafted blend of additional ingredients," the nutritionist concludes.

What does an independent nutritionist think of the Dirtea Cacao?

So, what does an independent nutritionist who's not paid by the brand think? Uta Boellinger, nutritionist and founder of Canelle Nutrition, shares that there are lots of pros. "As a nutritionist, I love cacao and recommend it as a hot chocolate alternative to most of my clients. Although I don’t usually like the term, I would be tempted to describe it as a superfood as it’s an excellent source of antioxidants, iron and magnesium," she explains. "Even drinking a good quality cacao powder with unsweetened almond milk and a little cinnamon would be beneficial to your health and likely aid relaxation due to its magnesium content."

On this particular product, she shares that the fact it has no added sugar, sweeteners, or artificial flavours all get the green light from a nutrition standpoint. "This product gets the thumbs up from me for not having any unnecessary additives," she continues.

So, what about the shroom element? "Medicinal mushrooms have and are still commonly used in the mainstream medical society in Asia, including in hospitals," she explains. Far from being another wellness trend, she confirms that there is evidence that they can positively impact your health, including their anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.

That said, she does warn to be mindful of some of the health claims made about functional mushrooms. "The main issue I see is a lack of knowledge of dosages required to have a medicinal effect," she explains. "I’ve seen quite a few mushroom products that contain only tiny amounts and nowhere near as much as may have been used in clinical trials, which means they are therefore unlikely to have a positive effect."

Cacao, on the other hand, contains theobromine which may have a similar effect to caffeine on some people. While she's never had this problem herself, and shares that the same for most of her clients, some are highly sensitive and may not be able to sleep after having cacao in the evening. "Be mindful that as a result, this product isn't suitable for everyone," she concludes.

How does Dirtea Cacao work?

In a nutshell, cacao releases a neurotransmitter called anandamide, sometimes referred to as the "bliss molecule." As per the Dirtea website, "anandamide is a neurotransmitter that binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body, stimulating a sense of happiness and mental wellness." 

Dirtea Cacao review

(Image credit: Future)

When should I drink Dirtea cacao?

According to Berry, whenever you like - although it can be a great coffee alternative if you're on the hunt for a low-caffeine option that will also boost your focus and mood. "Energising compounds in cacao, such as theobromine, provide a similar boost without the risk of jitters and crashes," she explains. "Plus, the addition of lion’s mane and MCT oil can improve focus. One recent study on lion’s mane demonstrated an improvement in working memory, attention, reaction time and mood two hours after ingestion."

That said, I always enjoy my cacao in the evening after dinner if I'm craving something sweet or something to help me wind down before bedtime - something the nutritionist backs. "Cacao can also make for a soothing evening drink - it's been shown to help regulate circadian rhythms, plus is rich in magnesium, a mineral that promotes muscular relaxation," she shares. Finally, the addition of reishi in this blend helps to promote deeper, better-quality sleep. "Research indicates that reishi increases levels of GABA and serotonin, two calming neurotransmitters which help to reduce sleep latency - the time taken to fall asleep - and increase overall sleep time."

Top tips for using Dirtea Cacao

If you’ve never tried ceremonial cacao or functional mushrooms before Berry suggests starting with a half-dose. "Try and notice how you feel - everyone's response is different," she shares. While some will find it energising, others will find it relaxing and the ideal pre-bedtime soother.

Follow the below steps to make the perfect mug:

  • Place your powder in a mug (one tablespoon or six grams).
  • Add a little hot water.
  • Then, stir until the powder has fully dissolved and melted.
  • Top up with hot water or milk as desired. 
  • If you have a sweeter tooth, Berry recommends adding a dash of raw honey or maple syrup.

Dirtea Cacao review

So, how did I get on with the product? 

By now, you'll have guessed I'm a fan of the product, but it is worth pointing out here that it's an investment, for sure. At £49.99 for 30 servings, you're looking at around £1.60 a mug. That said, some might say you can't put a price on health, and it's certainly clear that the Dirtea team seem to go above and beyond to ensure they're only using the best ingredients and dosages in their products (sure, other mushroom products on the market might be cheaper, but as Boellinger points out, could contain such a small dose that you won't reap any of the benefits). 

I first tested the Dirtea cacao at an event with the brand about a year ago, where they encouraged us to drink a cup before a soothing meditation and breathwork session. I went into it feeling pretty sceptical - as I said, I test products for a living and have seen plenty in my time that categorically do not do what they promise on the tin - but fast forward 45 minutes and I was feeling unbelievably chilled out (no mean feat, as someone who constantly has thousands of tabs open in her brain and often finds it difficult to switch off). 

Eager to decipher whether it was just the meditation and breathwork that had chilled me out, I started drinking a mug of the cacao before bed each evening. First thing to note: it tastes great, unlike other mushroom blends I've tried before. I'd even go as far as to say you can't taste the mushrooms - instead, you get to enjoy a warming, slightly bitter mug of hot chocolate. 

Secondly, it's incredibly easy to incorporate into your daily routine and feels more like a treat than a supplement. While I'm all for protein shakes and electrolytes after my long runs, I'll be the first to say they're not the tastiest components of my diet. Dirtea, though, has managed to produce a goodness-backed supplement that only needs a bit of hot water and frothy milk and voila - creamy, wellness-boosted hot chocolate. (Trust me on this one). 

Lastly - and the main reason I think I keep coming back to the product - I cannot stress enough how soothing and calming I've found it, so much so it's become one of my favourite parts of my pre-bedtime routine. I want to stress here that no product will ever be a cure-all or a replacement for a healthy, balanced diet. Eating protein, fat, carbs and fibre at every meal and prioritising daily movement and hydration will all do far more for your general wellbeing than any supplement will. That said, I know products are good when they stand the test of time in my household, and the fact that I'm still using the product a year down the line means it gets the green light from me. 

While I can't comment on whether it's supported my immune health or "enhanced my beauty" as the website claims - this is a big sweeping statement and one that certainly needs more specific scientific backing to prove its veracity - I do feel that it's helped to boost my sleep quality, alongside other hacks like sleeping with my phone outside of my bedroom and restricting my screentime from around 9pm.

So, question - will you be giving it a try? 

How do you drink DIRTEA?

For the cacao blend, it's as simple as adding a teaspoon (six grams) to hot water and mixing until the powder has dissolved. Then, top with more hot water or milk. I like adding frothy warm milk for a soothing cup before bed.

Does DIRTEA taste like coffee?

The cacao blend doesn't taste of coffee at all - instead, it tastes slightly sweet with an overarching taste of warming, bitter chocolate. If this bitterness isn't for you, the nutritionists we spoke to for this piece recommended adding a touch of honey or maple syrup. 

Where is DIRTEA made?

While the ingredients for the Dirtea products are sourced from China and Finland, they're packaged for you in the UK.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.