Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Kava and New Zealand have always had a close relationship – but it is now beginning to ‘blossom’.

We reported recently about the New Zealand prime minister, John Key, arriving in Fiji to a traditional kava ceremony. But it goes well beyond this.

With the proximity of New Zealand to the island nations of the South Pacific, such as Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, and Tonga, it is no surprise that a large number of ‘islanders’ have chosen New Zealand as their home.

In fact, around 7.5 percent of the country’s 4.6 million people identify with South Pacific ethnic groups. This makes it one of the ‘kava centres’ of the world.

Importance of kava in New Zealand

If you know any Pacific islanders you will also know that, wherever they go, their kava follows them closely behind! Its calming, relaxing properties are seen as a vital cultural connection with the power to put people back in touch with their island homes; and drinking kava is as much of a social routine for many NZ-based islanders as it is when they are back in their ‘spiritual home’.

The kava bowl is never very far away yet, in New Zealand, like in most western countries, its use has traditionally been restricted largely to the migrant communities.

Not anymore. Kava is making inroads into other communities, crossing cultural divides, just like in the US, Australia, and elsewhere. Misconceptions still exist about kava and its effects, as well as with the importance of quality, though.

Raising the profile of kava in New Zealand

The recent Fine Food New Zealand trade expo in Auckland included kava-based products, in recognition that it has become more ‘mainstream’. This is part of an attempt to promote more Pacific-grown products in the local and global markets. Exposure at this international food trade show also helps to educate the market about the noble kava varieties available.

Amongst many other Pacific products, Taki Mai flavoured kava supplements were showcased and, we are delighted to say, they went down a storm!

Joe Fuavao, of Pacific Trade & Invest and the Produce Company, noted that the kava shots had become a ‘crowd favourite’:

“It’s been a real a winner. I think a lot of people have been quite curious about the effects of Kava. They’re used to seeing it in powder form so now seeing the product packaged and well presented is certainly generating the interest amongst a lot of the cafes and bars.

“A lot of the cafe owners, the restaurateurs that have come across our stand – they’ve seen the word Pacific and started to have a look at what we have on offer,”

So, you may be seeing Taki Mai kava shots in more cafes and bars around New Zealand in the very near future.

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Kava and New Zealand: A Blossoming Relationship