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By Zane Yoshida

A New ‘Superbowl’ Comes To America: The Kava Bowl

It seems that there is a new ‘superbowl’ in town – the ‘tanoa’ or kava bowl.

The fastest growing market for kava is in America. Whether it’s a new kava bar or a new place to buy kava pills opening, or an article on the health benefits of kava, everywhere you turn there is a new story about kava in the U.S. press.

This is good timing as it coincides with our visit to attend ExpoWest in Anahaim (CA) in March, where we gave away Taki Mai kava samples to lucky guests at our booth.

Here is just some of the great press that kava has received lately…

New Yorkers gather around the kava bowl!

An article in the New Yorker magazine recently drew attention to ‘Kava and the rise of healthy New York’ in a reference to the fact that some people are giving up alcohol and turning to kava instead; it is starting to be sold in many health and wellness centers in the city, and the article focuses on the very busy Kavasutra bar – one of the city’s first kava bars.

Kava bars are opening all over the country and it has caught on in the most cosmopolitan city of all, New York.

The article starts with the following:

“’ALCOHOL IS SO 2014. TRY KAVA,’ suggests a sandwich board on Tenth Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, in the East Village.”

It then points out that:

“Drinking is meant to be a ritualized opportunity to unwind, but it also produces the unintended stress of dealing with the side effects of booze. Unsurprisingly, alcohol has a profound and documented cumulative effect on work: a 2015 report from the C.D.C. estimated that drinking (and subsequent hangovers) created a drop in productivity that cost the U.S. economy ninety billion dollars in 2010.”

It describes kava as “a sedative used to relieve anxiety and relax the muscles. But, unlike alcohol, kava allegedly doesn’t interfere with any cognitive abilities, and, if you hydrate properly, it won’t give you a hangover.”

And what of the craze for kava that seems to be sweeping over many pockets of the city?

“Increasingly, it feels as though New York is attempting to reconcile its booze-hounding tendencies with its newfound, almost Los Angelesque obsession with health and wellness.”

Kava is making waves inland too!

Articles in the local U.S. press cover the opening of kava bars all around the country. For instance earlier this month, this article in the Daily Californian focuses on the MeloMelo KavaBar, which serves “a tasty sip of anti-anxiety”.

Traditionally kava culture in the U.S. has centered on the beach communities of the west coast and Florida, but this is rapidly changing.

This one in the Austin Chronicle (in Texas) calls kava a “relaxing and mood-enhancing beverage” and “a tonic that has been revered in the South Pacific for over 3,000 years”.

It’s encouraging to see articles such as these focusing on the many positive aspects of the beverage, and not on the bad press it has sometimes received:

“It has gained popularity stateside for its properties widely purported to relieve stress and anxiety, ease muscular tension and cramps, and alleviate insomnia and depression.”

In U.S. kava bars, the kava is usually served chilled in coconut shells, and is often on tap. Sometimes it is mixed with flavored syrups, which can be a ‘softer’ introduction to the beverage for first-time drinkers. It is usually imported in dried root form, then soaked for two to three days, blended, squeezed, strained, and then put into kegs.

It is worth noting that the ‘premium’ version of the beverage in the Austin kava bar is from Fiji! Clearly, they have their priorities well-tuned! Bula!

By Zane Yoshida

Kava Usage in Fiji is Rising – Along With Its Stock

Its reputation has taken some unnecessary blows in the past decade or so but kava usage is on the increase in Fiji and worldwide – and its profile is on the up.

Increasing kava usage and demand

A recent report in the Fijian Times referred to a National Nutrition Survey, which is conducted every ten years in the country. It said that the number of males who drink kava increased from 55.7% in 1993 to 63.9 per cent in 2004; and from 15.7 per cent of females in 1993 to 31.2 per cent in 2004.

While these figures already sound dated, it points to a growing trend in Fiji of more locals drinking the hallowed beverage – with an especially sharp rise in women drinking it, perhaps due to cultural taboos being challenged more. Almost 70 percent of Fijians who drink kava do so on two to six days in a week.

Worldwide demand is also increasing with Fijian government urging kava farmers in the north of the country to increase their yield to meet the demand from the export markets.

With the European ban lifted some time ago and more kava supplements like Taki Mai shots, powder and capsules reaching the markets of America, Europe, and Asia, export demand is expected to continue to grow in coming years.

The principal agricultural officer for the Northern region said that kava farmers should increase production as there has been a shortage in the supply to the export market for years.

‘Feelgood’ kava stories

Along with the increasing demand we are seeing more positive stories about kava again in the worldwide media.

The New Zealand Herald recently reported on a study at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), which found that regular attendance at kava clubs helps keep young males of Tongan ethnicity away from the dangers of drugs, alcohol and gangs:

“The AUT study analysed the kava club attendance of New Zealand-born Tongans aged between 16 and 30. It revealed that participation in these clubs helped foster a strong sense of cultural identity and diverted young Tongan males from drug and alcohol abuse, and youth gang participation.”

Kava clubs have been a feature of the country since large numbers of Tongans started migrating to New Zealand and looking to resume affiliations with their Tongan village of origin.

In much the same way as kava is part of the fabric of Fijian culture, many South Pacific islanders who migrate and have families in their new countries take this important part of their culture with them.

Along with the kava drinking comes singing, storytelling, and discussions on a large range of subjects, where people learn, gather wisdom, and form an identity. This is as important for second generation islanders as it is for those who originally moved to the country.

Stories like this in the New Zealand Herald are a good sign that kava stock is rising and it is again taking its rightful place as a valuable ingredient in bringing communities together in a healthy and positive way.

By Zane Yoshida

Taki Mai Sponsors International Kava Conference

South Pacific Elixirs, makers of Taki Mai, is proud to be co-sponsoring KAVA2015, the International Kava Conference.

This international event will be held at the Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawaii, from July 25-26, and will bring together cultural practitioners, scientists, growers and vendors with a shared interest in Kava.

Speakers will fly in from, the Pacific, Australia, Europe and the U.S. mainland, to join local Hawaiian presenters. They will address current issues in the science, culture and regulatory environment of kava as it becomes a more globalised crop.

Some of these issues include:

  • Reconciling the understanding of cultural efficacy and toxicity with Western pharmacology and regulatory understandings
  • Moving toward an understanding of the pharmacology and the mechanism of action
  • Visioning the agro-economical future of kava as it is framed by the regulatory and scientific environment
  • Closing the loop between cultural practice and scientific data

The kava conference organisers note the following:

“Contemporary recreational use has both outpaced the degree to which traditional practitioners can guide kava preparation and cultivation and has extended kava’s impact to a global recreation and nutraceutical audience.  The globalization of kava brings new perspectives to its study, placing Western drug discovery and toxicologically/efficacy studies alongside opportunities to explore the mechanistic bases for kava’s actions in a manner informed by indigenous knowledge.”

Following are a few of the leading names who will be addressing the above:

  • Chris Allen, President of Hawai‘i ‘Awa Council
  • JD Baker, Ph.D., University of Hawai‘i
  • ‘Skip’ Bittenbender, Ph.D., University of Hawai‘i
  • Kamana’opono Crabbe, Ph.D. CEO, Office of Hawaiian Affairs
  • Jerry Konanui, Association for Hawaiian Awa, Hilo, Hawaii
  • Dana Lynn Koomoa, Ph.D., University of Hawai‘i Hilo
  • Vincent LeBot, Ph.D., Department of Agriculture, Republic of Vanuatu
  • Jerome Sarris, Ph.D., University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Mattias Schmidt, Ph.D., Herbreserach, Germany
  • Gary Stoner, Founder of True Kava
  • Helen Turner, Ph.D. Chaminade University
  • Chris Xing, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

We will report back about the outcome of this conference in a future post.

A New ‘Superbowl’ Comes To America: The Kava Bowl
Kava Usage in Fiji is Rising – Along With Its Stock