Interview: Assra Tajbhai exploring coffee and functional mushrooms

Friday, 12 January, 2024

By Ayanda Dlamini 

There’s something so satisfying about the fusion of two seemingly distant entities coming together, and making complete sense. Like my first response to the concept of sweet and salty popcorn - before tasting it, my brain couldn’t comprehend how sweet and salty flavours combined could taste any good. When I finally tasted the popcorn, I was confused and impressed all at once, yet utterly satisfied by the experience of these two opposite flavours, making complete sense. 

In any case, another masterpiece I’ve come to know that is born from an unexpected union, is the convergence of Medicinal mushrooms (aka Functional Mushrooms) and Coffee. Throughout last year, I immersed myself in an extensive exploration of functional mushrooms infused in coffee, delving deep into their benefits and applications.

As my understanding expanded, Assra Tajbhai, the brains behind HerbiVibe reached out to me. During our lengthy conversation, Assra exuded genuine passion and profound gratitude for nature’s gifts, particularly mushrooms and coffee. She spiritedly shared the inherent healing properties found in these natural elements, and desires that more individuals need to know about the holistic wellness benefits of incorporating functional mushrooms into our daily coffee rituals, in order to promote a life of balance and well-being through coffee and functional mushrooms.

What are functional mushrooms: 

Functional mushrooms are mushrooms that have adaptogenic properties and health benefits beyond that of their nutritional value.

Could you share a bit about yourself and how you got interested in functional mushrooms?

I grew up in a home where alternative medicines were much preferred to western medicine, particularly Ayurveda. I lived with my gran and my mom and this was a concept that was openly spoken about and it was knowledge that was just there and became second nature to what I would practice getting older. 

How did you transition this passion into starting a business related to functional mushrooms?

I’ve always been someone that’s been inclined to wellness and fitness that’s always just been a part of me. I also had the opportunity to travel to the Eastern Cape, where I could forage mushrooms and see the process of how they can be turned into medicine. This was a significant moment in my life given a bit of my own personal history with mushrooms and then having the opportunity to have them tangible in my hands, was a surreal moment and it created this fire in me to share it. 

My own experience of functional mushrooms happened during lockdown. During that time we were all home and had to face ourselves - I also think after Covid, there’s been a shift and so many more people are a lot more open to alternative medicines. 

The profound effect that it had on my body and my health was so significant. So much so that I had stopped taking any medications, particularly for  anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome. The benefits in functional mushrooms completely alleviated those symptoms, alongside the simple things like moving your body and nourishing it accordingly. That was really the turning point for me and what made me realize how powerful and effective the benefits were.

It's important to understand how functional mushrooms work as well. So for example from a Mental Health perspective - mushrooms are adaptogens, what this means is that they help your body to deal with stress, so it modulates and harmonizes your body. And with each different mushroom, they target inflammation in the body. Wherever there’s systemic inflammation, the mushrooms will go into your body and modulate that, which can modulate your immune system, therefore you can function better as a whole.

How do you incorporate it into your daily routine and coffee drinking habits?

The first thing I consume in the day is a liter of water. Without hydration nothing you take will travel through your body effectively. I also like to mushroom-stack, so this involves adding drops of mushroom tinctures in my water, this includes Lions Maine, Cordyceps, Reshi, Turkey tail and Chaga. The coffee comes in on the mornings I’m going to the gym, I like to make this superfood smoothie: 

1/2 bananas 

1 tablespoon of peanut butter 

1 tablespoon or desired amount of Cacao powder 

A double shot of espresso 

Desired amount of preferred milk

1-2 tablespoon of chia seeds (optional) 

Honey to taste

10 drops of HerbiVibe mushroom tinctures - Lions Mane, Cordyceps & Reishi. OR any one of them. 

Sip & enjoy!

(The following mushrooms are more likely to alter the taste of a plain Americano, as opposed to a cappuccino, where the taste isn’t very evident)

Have you encountered any misconceptions or resistance from people regarding the use of functional mushrooms, and how do you address them?

Yeah I definitely have. The first question I always get is “are these psycho active”. I mean the answer is no in this instance, but how I always address this is that there are about 1400 species of mushrooms. I try to approach it on a human level by educating people. I also firmly believe that we are nature. The rift separating humans and nature has contributed to a lot of detriment, in not just our health but also our environment and climate. You can really see how we’ve separated ourselves from concepts that form who we are. That really is the core of @herbi.vibe. To be able to bridge that gap between us and nature, and create that awareness again, that we have everything within us to be able to enable our bodies with the help of nature's supplements. 


It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using functional mushroom supplements if you are taking medications or you are pregnant.

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