Taki MaiTaki Mai

By Zane Yoshida

Olympic Golds and Kava Bowls

It may have escaped your attention with all the excitement and ceremony of the Olympics in Rio back in August; but a small island nation won its first Olympic medals ever.

That nation was Fiji and we didn’t just win medals – we won golds!

As all Fijians are aware by now, our Sevens Rugby team did the nation proud by beating Great Britain in the final of the tournament to bring home gold for Fiji!

Fiji has sent athletes to the Olympics since Melbourne in 1956, but we had never previously won a medal. So if you’re reading this from the U.S., where your nation hauled home a massive 47 gold medals, spare a little ripple of applause for us!

Wild celebrations – over the kava bowl

The victory in the final sparked wild celebrations in Fiji; or as wild as things can get when the kava bowl is in play!

As you know, kava has a relaxing and calming effect, but these qualities were put to the test after the final, in which Fiji hammered Great Britain 43-7.

It certainly was a proud and emotional moment for all Fijians, as the 12 squad members received their gold medals from Princess Anne in the stadium in Rio.

As the medals were presented to the team, some people were surprised to see each Fijian player kneeling on the podium, and clapping three times out of respect for the Princess. This is a gesture normally reserved for a kava ceremony, when it is traditional for Fijians to clap three times after drinking a shell of kava, as a sign of respect.

In the national stadium in Suva, thousands of Fijians gathered to watch the historic match and to cheer the boys on from the other side of the Pacific.

And how did Fijians celebrate the win?

According to Maori Television, the kava was flowing  for former Fijian rugby captain Deacon Manu and many Fijians alike:

“The communities all around the world, the Fijian communities that I’ve touched base with, many around the world, and they’re all in full party mode and the kava is flowing like water at the moment to celebrate the victory.”

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama congratulated the team too, saying,

“A wonderful reception awaits our boys when they arrive back in Fiji. Never before has the Fijian spirit soared so high as it does today. Never have we stood so tall as a nation. So let us rededicate ourselves to the task of building our beloved Fiji. One nation, one people, playing an even greater role in the region and the world.”

Well done Fiji. We’re proud of you!

By Zane Yoshida

The Ever-Present Kava Bowl: From Politics to Rugby to Surf

Whenever and wherever there is an important event or an esteemed guest arriving in Fiji, a kava bowl won’t be far away. And the more important the guest the larger the kava ceremony.

In the past few weeks, there have been several important events and visitors to the country – and all have received the ‘kava treatment’.

A kava comment causes a stir

First there was the opening of the 2016 World Surf League Fiji Pro tournament in Namotu, Tuvarua. The close relationship between kava and surfing is something that I wrote about previously in this post.

Then the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, recently took up an offer from the Fijian Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, to visit Fiji.

He was welcomed in Suva by a 100-strong Guard of Honour and a traditional welcoming ceremony, where he drank kava and was represented with a traditional whale’s tooth.

His visit represented the first visit by a New Zealand Prime Minister in the past decade. Despite having their differences in the past, everything was as cordial as expected around the kava bowl. But all eyes were on the Key’s reaction to the kava…

On a previous visit to the South Pacific in 2010, Keys described the taste of kava as a mixture of muddy water and liniment and then, in answer to the question about what he thought of kava from Vanuata, he replied with the following (to every Fijian’s dismay):

“At the risk of offending them, slightly better than the Fijian kava, and on a par with Samoa.”

Fijian kava is known for its high quality, so this comment caused widespread raising of eyebrows around the Fijian islands, and probably didn’t endear Key to the majority of Fijians.

It was good to see that, though he may not be a kava lover, he still downed a shell from the kava bowl on this visit – as you can see by the picture. But he kept his thoughts on the taste of kava private this time!

Rugby balls and kava bowls

Bill Beaumont, the incoming chairman of World Rugby, was also in town for a committee meeting – the first ever in Fiji, since the World Rugby body was established in 1886!

Beaumont met with the Fijian Prime Minister at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa and was treated, of course, to a traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony around the kava bowl.

As you can see just from the past few weeks, the kava bowl is an ever-present fixture in Fiji – from the halls of government, to the rugby field and out on the sea!

Have you had your shot of kava today?

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

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!

Olympic Golds and Kava Bowls
The Ever-Present Kava Bowl: From Politics to Rugby to Surf
A New ‘Superbowl’ Comes To America: The Kava Bowl
Making Kava from Kava Powder