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

Kava Helping Australia To Relax

The first kava bars are just opening in Australia, indicating that the word about kava’s relaxing and medicinal qualities is spreading.

Kava and Australia are no strangers. The root has been in widespread use in indigenous Australian communities for many years, often as a substitute for alcohol. But there is little doubt that attitudes towards kava are changing and it is becoming more ‘mainstream’…

Kava bars opening their doors

The news that kava bars are starting to be a feature of the Australian ‘bar scene’ is interesting. Australia is known as a bar-loving country, but strictly the alcohol variety. Aussies love their beer!

Kava bars are already a feature of the beach communities in the U.S. and more are opening in major urban centres there. But in Australia, they are still something of a rarity. The Kava Hut Bar in Adelaide is one of the first – and it’s not very big.

Kava bars generally serve only kava and are completely alcohol-free, meaning that there are no hangovers to contend with the next day and the mental clarity of customers is not impaired. The atmosphere, like the beverage, is best described as ‘relaxed’. Compare that with a Friday night in a typical bar in urban Australia!

Kava: available in some parts of Australia

Kava has been available in Australia as a supplement sold in health stores for some time. However, only in some areas. It is now banned in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, where there have been problems when combined with alcohol; kava tends to heighten the effects of alcohol and the two should never be taken together.

But kava taken on its own and in its purest form is a known treatment for anxiety, though many Australians are still unaware that there is a natural and scientifically proven remedy for mild anxiety.

Stress is a common health problem in Australia, as it is in most urbanised populations around the world, so spreading the word about kava should be a big help to many anxiety sufferers around the country.

You should feel quite confident in kava’s general safety as the government lists it on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). You can read more about that here.

Note that, in the states where kava is legal, there are usage and importation restrictions.

By Zane Yoshida

The Kava Alternative: No Hangover…No Addiction

One of the reasons for kava’s growing popularity in the west is that is provides a natural alternative to two drugs that have become ‘mainstays’ of modern culture: alcohol and diazepam.

People who have either given up alcohol, don’t enjoy it, suffer from bad hangovers, or who would just rather not drink it can enjoy a similar social buzz from kava.

And those who have been taking Diazepam, Valium or any of the other spin-off benzodiazepine family of drugs that produce the trademark calming effect can find similar relief from kava; but without the same potential for addiction that the little pills carry.

The kava alternative to alcohol

As suggested by the growing popularity of kava bars in the US, large numbers of people enjoy the social side of meeting up with friends in a bar, but they don’t necessarily want to drink alcohol.

The notorious side effects of alcohol (we all know what that pounding headache and nausea feels like), not to mention the inability to drive home after consuming it, makes alcohol particularly hard for many people to justify.

In a kava bar, you get the relaxing and calming effect of kava, together with its slightly euphoric effects, while also enjoying a social experience; and with no hangover afterwards.

The owner of the Krave kava bar in Carrboro, North Carolina puts it this way:

“It gives you a sense of well-being, you feel generally good, you become less anxious, more social, relaxed.”

And some of the drinkers at her bar say:

“I like bars, I like talking to people. This provides the same environment.”

“It’s a fun alternative to going out.”

“It makes you feel really relaxed and less stressed out.”

The kava alternative to diazepam

In 2006, Valium addiction sent over 19,000 people in the US to ER; in 2010, over sixty million Valium prescriptions were written. It is one of the most used drugs in the world, both recreationally and medically (in particular for those who suffer from seizures, muscle spasm, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, or anxiety).

The active compounds in kava (kavalactones) bind onto the brain receptors in the amygdala, which regulates feelings of fear and anxiety in a similar way to diazepam or valium; but, unlike with these prescription drugs, with kava there is no threat of addiction or other unpleasant side effects when taken in normal doses. These include driving impairment, memory loss, heart attack, hallucinations, and coma.

Consequently, there is great interest in the power of kava as a safe and natural treatment for depression, stress, restlessness, and anxiety.

Why not try kava if you are suffering side effects from your prescription anxiety medicine, or want to kick alcohol? What’s the alternative?

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

A TV Reporter’s View of Kava

American TV reporter and entertainment correspondent Joey Panek publishes a report each week on the MySunCoast website, which looks at the personalities and passions behind the biggest happenings on Florida’s Suncoast.

Interesting that his What’s Up Joey?  report recently did a feature on kava, though perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Florida is one of the areas of the US with the highest concentration of kava bars and is also where the first US kava bar opened in 2002.

For some reason, wherever there are beaches and sunshine, you’ll find kava!

“Meet the kava root”

Panek’s report entitled “Meet the kava root” is video-based and gives people the lowdown on what they can expect from kava – including quite a bit about its health benefits.

Here are some of the highlights of what he says:

“Staying power”

“Some herbs have staying power and every once in a while, you’ll find one so popular that it even gives way to its own community culture.. It’s time to meet the Kava root.”

“Natural relaxant”

“The root of the Kava plant is ground up into a fine powder, then soaked and strained into a tea. It’s said to be a natural relaxant.”

“Calming, euphoric feeling”

“’Kava is believed to be working on a part of the brain called the Limbic System which is the part that controls emotions,’ says Dr. Bart Price, MD of Manasota Medical Group in Sarasota, FL. ‘It’s giving the similar effects of alcohol where you have the calming, euphoric feeling, but supposedly it doesn’t work on your motor skills or mental acuity.’”

“Alternative to alcohol”

“Kava is often used as a social alternative to alcohol. In fact, it’s advised that the two shouldn’t be mixed.”

“Overall relaxed state of being”

“’It’s just an overall relaxed state of being…some people with anxiety issues come here to partake in it just to chill them out and relax them,’ says Ross Kashtan, owner of Bula on the Beach, a Kava bar in Madeira Beach, FL.”

“It’s a communal thing”

“’Kava isn’t something you just grab and hit the road with,’ says Kashtan. ‘It’s a communal thing. That’s what the tribesmen did on the islands. Everyone here drinks together. The bartender will make sure everyone has a shell of Kava.’ Everyone in the bar raises their bowls together and say “Bula!” as the toast.”

“All walks of life”

“The Kava community is very inclusive and that’s one of its draws. ‘When you’re here, you’ll notice that there’s all walks of life,’ says Kashtan of his patrons. ‘Young, old, black, white, gay, straight, redneck, blue collar, white collar… Everybody joins together, and everybody can just be themselves.’”

It’s great to see kava receiving more positive media coverage and people really capturing the spirit of kava in the US. Joey Panek and his interviewees did a great job of communicating the values of kava culture to Florida.

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Are You Trendy Enough For Kava?
Kava Helping Australia To Relax
The Kava Alternative: No Hangover…No Addiction
A New ‘Superbowl’ Comes To America: The Kava Bowl
A TV Reporter’s View of Kava