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Designer Coffee…As a Cure for What Ails You?

Golf legend Phil “Lefty” Mickelson says yes.

Photo by Christian Petersen via Getty Images

It may sound too good to be true: your favorite morning beverage—with a few enhancements—doubling as a potent wellness tool. But Phil “Lefty”  Mickelson, victor in 45 PGA tours and, as of last year, the oldest golfer to win a Major in history, and Titleist Performance Institute founder Dave Phillips’ company For Wellness offers just that.

Sitting at the intersection of self-care sizzle, elite athletic supplements, and the coffee crazed rest-of-us set, For Wellness sells coffee, yes, but its star product, The Good Stuff, is an organic “additive” that uses java as a vehicle to maximize its benefits (one mixes it into the brew hot, thereby bringing out the powder’s powers), and makes it taste smoother, richer, and more balanced. The Good Stuff’s ingredients range from mainstream favorites like collagen (known to add shine to hair and nails, as well as strengthen joints), cinnamon (which reduces inflammation) and Himalayan pink salt (which enhances hydration), to the sports-oriented powerhouse C-8 MCT powder (which boosts fat burning abilities) and mood smoother L-Theanine (which improves focus and prevents jitters).

How did this company, which next month introduces its first superfood snack, come about? In June of 2010 Mickelson was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. If not quite do or die health-wise, it felt close to it. “He couldn’t get out of his chair,” For Wellness president Greg Banbury says, characterizing the debilitating pain. “His basic movement was limited, let alone his athletic ability.” Mickelson, who had been so lax regarding nutrition up to that point that he drank as many as a dozen sodas a day, knew he had to turn on a dime. The first practitioner he saw told him to strengthen his immune system by…increasing coffee intake? Yep. That alone helped, a lot.

But could it help even more? His friend and colleague Phillips, a performance coach ranked by Golf magazine as among the 50 best teachers in the world, wondered. To find out, he embarked on a years-long quest to perfect the products they sell today. Coffee had become, in a very different way, important to East Africa-raised Phillips much earlier. He recalls his father taking him as a child to buy cups from a Masai tribesman who roasted his beans on an open fire, at sunrise; together they sipped the elixir among wildlife while sitting under a baobab tree and bonded over the—as his father noted even then—antioxidant rich drink. But For Wellness’ product development process was trial and many errors. “We tried turmeric in our coffee,” Mickelson has recalled with a grimace, as an example of the 50 variants attempted. “It tasted awful.”

Still: Phillips would formulate a version and Mickelson would road test it with a dual focus on taste and performance-enhancing effects. The Good Stuff, in the end, was named because it can replace what the two call “the bad stuff” most Americans put in their coffee: sugar, creamer et al. The Good Stuff can also be customized to work with any coffee—as well as smoothies and shakes—and combined with other ingredients for specific palates and health needs. Mickelson, these days, likes to add Manuka honey and unsweetened almond milk to his morning brews and also drinks a bespoke concoction before bed—adding maca root, cocoa and tart cherry. “The magnesium from the cocoa and the melatonin from the tart cherry helps me get to sleep,” he’s noted. “But the tart cherry also gets rid of that sugar craving.” Among the other benefits Mickelson, who’s no longer on medication for his arthritis and hasn’t had a sick day in 10 years, notes: better mood (in the mornings and beyond), increased motivation to stay on track nutritionally (after his a.m. Good Stuff, “I’m like, let’s not mess this up now”), ease with intermittent fasting (other than his coffees, he doesn’t imbibe anything until lunch) and weight loss.

What’s ahead for the company? Mickelson’s evening coffee mix is inspiring another upcoming product, tentatively called Recovery, for those who want to minimize dessert cravings and enhance rest. More imminently there’s Snacks For Wellness, those superfood bites which include espresso but aren’t based around it (coffee is the foundation of For Wellness, but its raison d’être is health enhancement generally), and feature protein-rich almond butter, gut health-promoting raw cacao, antioxidant-packed unfiltered honey, immunity-strengthening white button mushroom and more. How do the bites, which are designed to tide one over between meals healthily, look and taste? Like a brownie.

That combination of flavor and performance is For Wellness’, er, sweet spot. Mickelson puts it this way. “Coffee has changed my life. That’s a pretty big statement and hard to fully understand but I really believe it.” He adds of the new Snacks, polishing one off, “It’s moist, it’s dense and it’s delicious.” Phillips echoes this but adds that the company’s mission is larger too. “I look at today’s world and part of this story—and hopefully what For Wellness will become—is helping people take accountability for their own health. We have a healthcare system, not a well-care system, and I want people to put things in their bodies that will promote both.”