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By Zane Yoshida

Kava and Chocolate: A Delicious Medicine?

Maybe you like to drink kava in its natural form; but if you’re wondering how to add a new dimension to that instant kava powder you have in the cupboard, then some weird and wonderful ideas are emerging from creative kitchens around the world.

One of the best is mixing kava with chocolate – could it be a wonderful, delicious new medicine?

Kava and chocolate: not so different

While chocolate and kava may sound like a mighty strange blend, they do share some things in common: both are substances that ancient populations used for various purposes.

Chocolate (made from cacao) was used as a drink in pre-Colombian times in Mesoamerica, with traces of cacao cultivation as far back as 1900 BC. Over the other side of the Pacific Ocean, southern islanders were also using kava in traditional beverages. Both had a bitter taste and both were believed to have health-giving properties.

Mixing kava and chocolate today

One reiki healer from Shutesbury in Massachusetts perhaps took inspiration from this. She claims that her unique kava and chocolate mix is a medicine. Mixing a bowl of raw cacao with ground kava at her workshop, she said:

“It’s really good at releasing anxiety, especially social anxiety,”

It’s cooked as a normal chocolate sauce might be cooked, infusing kava into the chocolate and adding a little coconut oil, coconut manna, coconut cream, and honey; it ends up as chocolate-kava fudge that is frozen and served cold.

This seems like a great way for people who don’t like the bitter taste of kava to enjoy its health benefits, as it is made sweeter and more palatable. The relaxation, anti-anxiety, and muscle relief that kava brings is well-established; if these benefits are not lost by ingesting kava as part of a sweet treat then why not?

Taki Mai instant kava is perfect for such an experiment and can be used during the daytime as it doesn’t inhibit mental clarity; but make sure you treat the highest grade Fijian kava root powder to good chocolate- not just any chocolate!

By Zane Yoshida

What Factors Affect Kava Quality?

There has been a lot of discussion recently about kava quality. With the lifting of the European ban Pacific nations are more committed than ever to maintaining a high standard of kava for export.

There is considerable vested interest in this too – for the economies of the Pacific nations and the livelihoods of the kava farmers in those nations.

So why the need for kava standards- and what actually affects the quality?

Kava variations

Kava has always varied in quality and farmers have always identified different strains, based on its physical appearance, the brew produced from its roots, and the physical and psychological effects produced by its consumption.

The biggest factor in quality is in the strength and predictability of the kavalactones present in kava, rather than in the physical appearance, which may only differ slightly.

In Vanuatu alone there are an estimated 80 varieties of kava, and Fiji has many other varieties. These are the two largest producing nations in the Pacific.

Kava varieties can be broken down into three basic types:

  • Noble kava
  • ‘Two-days’ kava
  • Wild kavas

In its most basic definition, noble kava is high standard, cultivated kava that can be exported in root or supplement form. It is free from toxins and impurities.

‘Two-days’ kava is a particularly potent strain that is actually prohibited for international export, but which often makes its way onto the market. This can damage the reputation of kava as it may cause nausea and other unpleasant side effects. It is so-called because the effects can last for up to 48 hours.

Wild kava is another inferior type grown in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

What factors affect kava quality?

The overall quality of kava you enjoy in your beverages, shots, capsules, or powder form depends on several factors:

  • The variety
  • The age of the plant (usually should be harvested after 3-5 years of growth)
  • The part of the plant used (roots, stumps, or basal stems)
  • The way it is cultivated (organic or not? Soil fertility and sunshine hours?)
  • The geographic origin

This will all affect the appearance, consistency and, most importantly, the kavalactone content of the kava.

The ‘chemotype’ of the kava describes its chemical make-up and will help you understand more about the kavalactones present in the variety that you take.

As you sit back and relax with a Taki Mai kava shot, you are probably not thinking too much about what’s in that little 3oz shot. You are likely just enjoying the relaxing feeling wash over you.

But its consistent calming effect is because you are enjoying elite kava of the highest quality – and now you know a little more about the factors that make it so.

By Zane Yoshida

Making Kava from Kava Powder

Above is a link to a video that shows you how to make a bowl of kava from kava powder. It’s like  ‘instant kava’ – so convenient to keep at home on the shelf and ready to go in a few minutes from start to finish. Mixing it is so easy anyone can do it.

Traditionally kava is made in a ceremonial mixing bowl called a ‘tanoa’ in Fiji – often a beautifully decorated one – but, as you can see in the video, when you have kava powder it can be made in practically anything.

Here the kava maker spoons eight or nine heaped tablespoonfuls into a large white mixing bowl containing water and stirs. As you can see, this makes enough for several people to enjoy – the more kava powder that goes in the stronger it is. You will need to find your own ‘level’ with the kava mix.

Fijians have been drinking kava for centuries so most have a higher tolerance to the active ‘kavalactones’ than the average westerners – so it might be a good idea to start off with a weak kava mixture and progressively add to it if required.

The kava powder is stirred in using a ladle and the ‘lumpiness’ of the mixture slowly dissolves away. Keep on stirring until all the lumps have vanished and the mixture starts to turn a murky, muddy colour.

Ideally, the end product should be a bit thicker than water, so if it is too thin, feel free to add another spoonful or two of powder – but remember to keep stirring it in.

The bowl he has produced here will serve a few people. However, if you are making just for yourself there is another way.

You can put the kava powder into a cocktail shaker and simply shake it up – this is a great way to ensure you have a supply of kava ‘on the go’ and stay ‘stress-free’ throughout the day!

By Zane Yoshida

Medicinal Kava – What Is It and Why Should You Be Excited?

Anyone casually searching for “kava” on the Web will find a few alarming stories as well as the ones which talk about the health benefits. While sometimes it seems that rather powerful forces are out to damage the good name of kava, the best way to battle this is to make kava products above suspicion.

At least that’s the route we’ve taken at South Pacific Elixirs. We are absolutely determined to play our part in getting kava the credit it deserves. That’s why we have focused on producing the best possible quality medicinal kava products that meet the exacting international processing standards.

Partnership with Douglas Pharmaceuticals

You may have read recently that we secured HACCP (“Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points”) and GMP (“Good Manufacturing Practices”) certification for the Taki Mai factory in Levuka, Fiji.

We took another important step along this path recently by partnering with Douglas Pharmaceuticals to produce pharmaceutical-grade kava for our kava powder and capsules: the latest additions to the Taki Mai range.

Douglas Pharmaceuticals is a well-established New Zealand- based company of almost 50 years. It is one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical development and manufacturing companies in Oceania, with a presence in Fiji and the United States.

Yes – It‘s really medicine!

Since we started this blog we have been stressing the health benefits of kava, especially in terms of stress and anxiety relief. Now we can really say that it’s medicine.

As the Fiji Times reported on June 18th:

“International buyers attending the Fiji Tourism Expo had the opportunity to peruse and sample medicinal kava yesterday…developed to pharmaceutical standards through Nadi-based Douglas Pharmaceuticals (Fiji) Ltd.”

Taki Mai founder Zane Yoshida says:

“Because we were working to pharmaceutical standards, we had to have approvals in place from governments we’re looking to export to, so work in progress for us was six to 12 months.

“We’ve been getting a lot of progress here in Fiji with the tourist market, but also we’re getting a lot of interest in the local market.

“At the moment, the finished products of our shots are produced offshore in the US, so we’re bringing all our products back to Fiji and partnering with Douglas Pharmaceuticals for all kava capsules and kava powder and now our kava shots as well.

“We now have three products for the Taki Mai brand and are also looking at launching a line extension to our shot in six to 12 months. We didn’t expect to expand this quickly but market response has been overwhelming.”

This is good news for kava lovers. Raising the quality of kava to meet international production standards and earn pharmaceutical grade status can only help to raise the profile of our beloved root!

By Zane Yoshida

Taki Mai Kava Powder & Kava Capsules Launched at the Fiji Tourism Expo

A few hundred years ago there was only one way that Pacific Islanders enjoyed kava – the relaxing beverage was lovingly prepared and drunk from a coconut shell loaded from the ceremonial “tanoa” bowl.

Since then, technology has thankfully blessed us with many creative ways of acquiring the health benefits of kava – without spending time to prepare it. In today’s hectic lifestyles, it’s not always possible to spend a few hours drinking kava with friends. But people still want the anti-stress and anti-anxiety effects.

That’s why we were proud to recently launch two new products in addition to our Taki Mai kava shots. You can now enjoy kava capsules or kava powder made from the highest quality grade of kava and manufactured to pharmaceutical standards.

For this latest venture, the makers of Taki Mai, South Pacific Elixirs (SPE) Pty Ltd, has partnered with New Zealand-based company Douglas Pharmaceuticals to deliver a new range of kava products registered for sale in Australia, but internationally recognised and destined to be exported to the US Asia, and Europe.

Zane Yoshida from South Pacific Elixirs said at the launch:

“It was a work in progress for the last 12 months for us. We launched in Fiji in November last year with our Taki Mai Kava shots – the flavoured Kava shots so this is a line extension for us but more so towards a pharmaceutical angle – the vertical integration – farm to shelf with the Taki Mai brand.”

The products were launched at the Fiji Tourism Expo 2015, which was held at the Denarau Island Convention Centre from June 16-18. This was a huge event for Fiji with over 150 international buyers present from around the world and the Fijian spirit of community and happiness in good supply. The Fiji Times reported that 2,697 cups of coffee were served over the three days! The daily newspaper didn’t report how many bowls of kava were consumed…

Taki Mai continues to strive to set the benchmark for the Kava industry in Fiji and the South Pacific, delivering the highest grade kava products that meet internationals standards. Manufacturing products to exacting standards is the best way to protect the kava industry, which is part of the lifeblood of the Pacific island community, and a way for Zane and his team to give back something to the islands where he grew up as a kid, drinking kava.

We have already come a long way from the initial idea of bringing kava to the world. Our small Taki Mai factory in Ovalau is set to get very busy. Exciting times ahead for kava growers in Fiji and kava lovers around the world…and the kava powder and kava capsules are the latest addition for you to check out.

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Kava and Chocolate: A Delicious Medicine?
What Factors Affect Kava Quality?
Making Kava from Kava Powder
Medicinal Kava – What Is It and Why Should You Be Excited?
Taki Mai Kava Powder & Kava Capsules Launched at the Fiji Tourism Expo