Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Are You Trendy Enough For Kava?

We’re proud to report that Taki Mai made its way into a feature story in the New York Times last week – our first appearance in a major U.S. newspaper.

Under the title Counting on the Trendy to Revive Kava, a Traditional Drink, freelance journalist Serena Solomon talks about the modernization of kava and how governments and others are working to revive the industry by helping kava appeal to a younger, western audience.

Kava has been featured on many regional U.S. news sites in the past few years, due mainly to the increasing numbers of kava bars opening up across the country. But this article is the first to our knowledge to specifically look at the direction of the industry as a whole.

The article is quick to reference the “wave of trendy bars in places like Brooklyn and Berkeley, Calif,” and mentions that there are around 100 kava bars now open across the country – three times the amount open five years ago.

Solomon points out that the journey for kava starts with hard work. She highlights one particular farmer on the island of Ovalau, in Fiji, who now grows kava for Taki Mai rather than drying and processing it himself in the traditional way.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Ovalau is where we grow, source, and process all of the kava that ends up in Taki Mai shots, instant kava, and our kava tablet supplements.

The article goes on to talk about the “mellow buzz” that people get from kava, its “bitter, chalky taste”, the effects of Cyclone Winston on the local kava industry, and how the industry has suffered for years due to inconsistencies in standards.

It then goes on to say how “governments, not-for-profits and a new group of entrepreneurs” are addressing these problems. That’s where Taki Mai comes in: we are mentioned as the company that “wants to do with kava what others have done for exotic coffee”, by helping to raise standards across the board and maintain high quality for export.

You can read the full article here, and find out how working with Taki Mai has changed the fortunes of one particular  farmer on Ovalau.

We hope to be helping many more in the future – and coverage in the New York Times certainly helps with that goal.

By Zane Yoshida

Taki Mai Wins the Fijian Prime Ministers International Business Award

Time to crack open another bag of instant Taki Mai kava powder and mix up a bowl!

We’re celebrating today at South Pacific Elixirs in the only way we know how – with a few shells of our favorite elixir.

That’s because we were honoured at the weekend to receive the Prime Ministers International Business of the Year Award for small business in Fiji.

You can see me with the Minister for Agriculture, Inia Seruiratu, in the picture above, and here’s a close up of the award:

After taking a battering from Winston, the kava industry in Fiji has had a lot to deal with this year; but there have been some great initiatives started for the future of the industry; and what a shot in the arm this award is, as we head into the New Year!

It’s going to be a huge 2017 for Taki Mai and the Fijian kava industry…we can already feel it!

By Zane Yoshida

The Kava Industry Is Islands Business!

The November issue of Islands Business features guess who on the front?

We’re proud to see Taki Mai front and centre – a testament to all the hard work put in by our team over the past few years. It’s wonderful that we are receiving recognition not only within the local kava industry, but nationally and internationally too.

You may have read my recent blog post about our partnership with Applied Food Sciences in the States. This was reported in the Fiji Times recently too.

And no sooner has that been announced than we get the front cover and a great spread in the premier business publication in the Pacific Islands region. Things are really moving forward at great speed, finally…

The Islands Business article

Islands Business was established more than 30 years ago and has experienced correspondents based in all the major Pacific Islands nations. It is distributed throughout the islands, as well as to subscribers in Australia, New Zealand, US, UK, Southeast Asia, and Japan.

This prestigious magazine features a detailed article in the November issue on the future of kava and the influence that South Pacific Elixirs (that’s us, folks!) is having on the regional kava industry.

It opens by saying that “an ancient crop is emerging as a game changer for island economies”. This echoes what the Fijian government and everyone involved closely with the kava industry has started to recognise in recent years, as the industry repairs its name following the European ban.

It covers how we have helped bring together other island nations to create a regional kava standard endorsed by the Codex Commission in Rome, which will help protect the future of the regional kava industry.

It talks of tens of millions of dollars of potential revenue for the Pacific producing nations – especially Fiji and Vanuatu. Fiji has also taken the initiative itself in creating the Kava Bill.

The article also covers how ‘unclean’, poor quality kava has created problems in the past and how the island of Ovalau, where our Taki Mai nursery, farms, and production facility are all based, is leading the way in Fiji and slowly becoming the country’s kava centre.

Finally, it covers how the threats of stricter regulations and bans in Australia can be thwarted by the proposed kava standard receiving international recognition through the Codex Commission. It considers how this will be the ‘crowning glory’ for kava, opening up export markets around the world and changing the lives of thousands of farmers across the region.

Thank you Islands Business for making kava and Taki Mai part of your business!

By Zane Yoshida

The Way Forward For Fijian Kava

After the trials faced by the Fijian kava industry in recent months, it was great to see one of our ‘elite’ kava saplings emerge from the lab this week.

Our previous post focused on the present kava shortages. The Fijian kava industry has been hit hard by the devastating cyclone back in March.

This one is all about the way forward for kava, and its bright future.

Rehabilitating the kava industry: an opportunity

As the Fijian kava industry rebuilds, there is an opportunity to establish itself firmly as the world leader in the production of high quality or ‘elite’ kava.

Already known for its high quality amongst Pacific kava-producing nations, steps are being taken to up the ante in quality in Fiji.

As reported in a previous post, South pacific Elixirs has been working with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) on an ‘elite kava’ project that has been co-funded by the Australian Government.

The project, called Development of a mass propagation system for elite varieties of Piper methysticum (kava), is now starting to bear fruit. The photo above, taken in the lab at the University of the South Pacific, is evidence of this.

The project set out to establish a rapid propagation system for clean planting material. Its over-arching aim was to provide world-leading kava quality and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Fiji.

New kava propagation methods

Traditionally, kava propagation uses the stem of the plant to make cuttings. This may increase the risk of disease being passed on from plant to plant.

The production of a disease-free, high quality kava is seen as vital to protecting the future of the kava industry. As exports rise and world attention increasingly focuses on kava as bans are lifted, the need to maintain the highest quality possible is in everybody’s interests.

The stated goal our project is:

“…to develop an efficient and effective propagation system for ensuring a sustained and uniform supply of quality planting material of the selected variety.”

High quality kava cultivars help to eliminate the problem of ‘Kava dieback’. This is a rapidly spreading black soft rot of the stem tissue. Symptoms appear on the leaves a few weeks before the visible rot starts, and it is a problem around the entire Pacific area.

Back in 2005, around 40% of the Fijian kava crop was wiped out. When problems arise, it’s a long way back for the kava industry, because kava does not produce seeds and it takes several years to grow.

When the problems are as severe as those experienced in the wake of Cyclone Winston, a lack of high quality stems available for propagation exacerbates the situation.

Our solution creates tissue cultures that maintain a constant supply of high quality, disease-free new kava plants:

“Once ‘clean’ kava plants are established in the nursery, the growth of axillary buds can be accelerated to produce material from which tissue cultures can be established.”

Since Winston then, the program has taken on new meaning as a way forward for the Fijian kava industry as a whole. We are in the process of training others in these propagation methods so that they can be used more in commercial nurseries.

It’s onwards and upwards for the Fijian kava industry from here- and we are proud to be part of the solution.

By Zane Yoshida

What Was The Winning Kava Description?

A couple of weeks ago we ran a competition amongst the Taki Mai community to come up with the best possible kava description.

This was prompted by a recent description on the website Tasting Table:

“It’s as if alcohol, marijuana and coffee had one wild night and created the sedating, antidepressant drink. The relaxation mimics the disinhibition brought about by alcohol, and anxiety is relieved à la a few hits of weed. The biggest difference is that it doesn’t alter your mental clarity. You could go back to work and be just as productive as before—if not more—which is why it’s sort of like coffee, too.”

So we threw it open to the Taki Mai community to see what they could come up with. The winning entry was chosen on 15th May and came from Stalin Naufahu, who is the lucky winner of our 1kg pack of instant kava giveaway!

Here is his great kava description:

“Kava is the rope that binds individuals together at ceremonies; whether it be official, social or of any hierarchy of its context, We gather around the Kava Bowl that serves as a fountain of natural ether to converse, to connect and to discover. Inadvertently, the effects of economic and social statures become non-existent as the kin of “kavaship” take hold. A farmer will converse with a business man, a commoner with his king. There is always something new to learn at a Kava ceremony, someone new to meet, new stories to be told and old legends to be preserved in song.

“We drink, we share, we live, and we release the breath we never knew we were holding when the effects of Kava takes root. This is Kava.”

I’m sure you’ll agree it really captures the essence of kava. And we were pleased to see that he was delighted with his winning performance – not so much for himself, but for his father:

“A week ago I sat in my room and pondered what I could get my old man for father’s day. I soon came across a competition entry open to the Pacific for Taki Mai, a manufacturer of instant kava of various flavors based in Fiji. Yes, flavors…believe it or not, there’s such a thing as Pineapple flavored Kava and from what I’ve heard its absolutely delicious. Kava? My pops is all about Kava! I soon turned in my entry without telling a soul in the case I would not win. Today on fathers day, I woke up to find that my old man would be enjoying himself some Taki Mai instant kava after all…Thank you Taki Mai!

Well done Stalin. Hope your father enjoys his Taki Mai kava!

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Are You Trendy Enough For Kava?
Taki Mai Wins the Fijian Prime Ministers International Business Award
The Kava Industry Is Islands Business!
The Way Forward For Fijian Kava
What Was The Winning Kava Description?