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 Life: The Taki Mai Experience On Video

I’ve used many words over the years to try to explain the kava experience…and, in particular, what it means to be part of the Taki Mai project. But sometimes words are not enough; you need a little help from pictures and, better still, video.

This post looks back at a few of the Taki Mai videos that help explain what it means to be involved in the kava industry in Fiji…and to be sending our Taki Mai kava around the world.

This first one simply takes in the stunning view from one of the Taki Mai trucks, as it goes on one of its delivery journeys from the processing plant on the island of Ovalau, in Fiji – where all our kava originates…

https://www.facebook.com/TakiMai/videos/1292353927462077

There are more images of Ovalau, including the Taki Mai nurseries, some of our kava root drying, and a few different views of kava plants growing in other kava farms on the island, in this video:

https://www.facebook.com/TakiMai/videos/1329264787104324

What does Taki Mai instant kava powder look like when it’s mixed with water and finds its home in the kava bowl (tanoa)? Well, this should give you a fair idea…

https://www.facebook.com/TakiMai/videos/10150618773446883

And what does it mean to taste Taki Mai? Well, you probably know already…but maybe we should verify that with Rohan Marley, son of the legendary Bob Marley, who sampled Taki Mai at Expo West a few years back:

https://www.facebook.com/TakiMai/videos/732447180119424

Wherever you are in the world enjoying Taki Mai, isn’t it great to find out where the kava came from in the first place?

These videos hopefully give you an idea of what it means for Fijians to be involved in growing and making the kava that helps people relax and enjoy life around the world.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to ask us below.

By Zane Yoshida

Fijian Kava Industry Suffering: Post-Winston Update

More information has emerged about the state of the Fijian kava industry since Cyclone Winston battered the islands in March of this year.

We covered this topic in a previous blog post, but an update is necessary. The kava industry, as expected, has been suffering, as much of the kava was harvested from damaged farms soon after the cyclone hit. The strong winds shook plants on many farms, resulting in root damage and causing the plants to wilt and die.

Now the predicted shortages have started to materialize and prices are hitting record highs in markets across the country.

On May 1st Fiji Times warned:

“YAQONA enthusiasts on Taveuni should expect an increase in yaqona prices soon as the last batches of the cash crop are being prepared for the market.”

(Note: Yaqona is the Fijian word for kava)

The same week the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reported:

“There is a substantial shortage of Kava in Fiji in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston. This has resulted in a drastic increase in the price of Kava.”

They quoted one farmer on the island as saying:

“Being a major contributor to the country’s yaqona market, I think that this will be the first time ever that the island will be running out of yaqona.”

Shortages on some islands mean that the kava needs to be brought in from other islands – making it even more expensive. At present 25-50% price increases are commonplace, but prices are expected to rise even more sharply in the coming months. In Suva (the capital of Fiji) prices have already more than doubled as kava supplies become scarcer.

This prompted the Fiji Sun Online to ask:

“Is Beer Cheaper Now Than Kava?”

Many of Fiji’s kava farmers know nothing else; they have been harvesting kava all their lives. Kava is a slow-growing crop with a growth cycle of several years, so the problem is not only present for this year, but for next year, the year after, and the year after.

What are these farmers supposed to do for an income until their new kava crops are ready to harvest in three years’ time? Once the dried stocks run out, that’s it.

Middleman and traders are trying to buy in bulk, and are controlling the price – but some farmers are reluctant to release all their stocks until the prices rise further. This makes life especially hard for smaller vendors and trader, as well as farmers.

It is estimated that it could take anywhere from 3-6 years for the Fijian kava supply to become stable again and for prices to drop back to normal levels. Meanwhile, imports of lower quality kava from Vanuatu are likely to rise, and officials are considering ways of expediting the revival of the local industry.

In the next post we look at how Taki Mai is doing our bit to help rejuvenate the kava industry in Fiji.

By Zane Yoshida

Where is Kava and Taki Mai Going in 2016?

2015 was another great year for building awareness about kava and Taki Mai.

In addition to the exciting release of our kava powder and capsules to supplement the four flavored kava shots, we received approval in Australia as a therapeutic good, and continued to grow our presence around Oceania, as well as in the US.

We closed the year in Australia with appearances at the Rugby 7s tournaments in Queensland and northern New South Wales, as well as appearances in Auckland (New Zealand), sponsoring well-attended events.

We are also growing awareness in Fiji with the Manai Island Resort using Taki Mai in a cocktail they have developed called Taki Mai Tai; there have also been plenty of educational exhibitions and product demos in Fiji.

What can you expect in 2016 in the US?

Towards the end of last year, a Fijian Ministry of Agriculture delegation went to the US and visited the Whole Foods Market in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is one of 50 outlets in the US where Taki Mai is sold, including supermarkets, pharmaceuticals, and department stores in the Pacific and Hawaii.

Taki Mai kava shots are sold as sports drinks that can calm, soothe and relax the body.

James Tonkin is company president, and he explained a little more about what can be expected in the coming year:

“Taki Mai products will be promoted in the major outlets through demo awareness to consumers and also in the Food shows in March 2016.”

Expect to see Taki Mai kava shots hit more store shelves this year. Judging by how many new kava bars are opening across the country, demand is spiraling.

Experience the calm from our online store

Another exciting development in 2016 is the unveiling of the Taki Mai online store.

Our online platform will be up and running by mid-January for deliveries of Taki Mai kava products in New Zealand and Australia.

This is hopefully the first step in being able to ship our kava all over the world, and we are working with our distributors to make it happen.

Key challenges in 2016

Of course there are always challenges –and a consistent kava supply is one of the key challenges for Taki Mai in the year ahead.

Only the finest kava from the island of Ovalau in Fiji is used and 70 contracted farmers on the island supply the natural root to maintain the flow of kava shots to the market:

“We are keen to increase our volume and push for the four flavored Taki Mai shots to the market, but our problem is always the supply of the two varieties we require from the farmer. These two varieties that have the kava lactones levels required for the special products,” Tonkin said.

The Fijian government is doing its bit to spread awareness of the potential that export markets hold; the Taki Mai nurseries in Ovalau also continue to be a shining light for the future quality of kava coming out of the island.

There is a recognition within the Fijian government, through the blossoming success of Taki Mai, that the country has a valuable and much sought after international commodity within its islands.

The acting Permanent Secretary for Agriculture in Fiji recently said:

“What the delegation have witnessed and observed from this visit has confirmed that Kava is one of the potential commodities for Fiji and the market is huge. We have not yet tapped into Australia and New Zealand with this product and then now you have Europe that just recently reopened its market.”

We will continue to push into new frontiers in 2016, to help our Ovalau farmers, Fiji as a whole, and kava lovers around the world.

Bula!

By Zane Yoshida

Cyclone Pam and the Effects on Kava Production

The devastation caused by Cyclone Pam, which hit Vanuatu back in March of this year, has also hit kava production on the islands.

While the rebuilding process has started to piece the country back together, following one of the worst natural disasters in Vanuatu’s history, the kava farmers and the industry as a whole may take longer to recover.

Kava is a slow-growing crop that generally takes between three and six years to mature. So there is no “quick fix” for the loss felt by the local farmers and the damage it has done to the economy of Vanuatu.

Coping with the devastation

Even in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, kava was a comfort for many locals, as they came to terms with what had happened to their home. Reuters reported the following:

“Ignoring calls to stay at home, men were gathering among the debris of blasted trees and twisted corrugated iron to swap news of the storm over a drink of kava, a mildly intoxicating brew that is deeply embedded in the social fabric of Pacific islanders.”

Between 11 and 15 people lost their lives because of the cyclone; the country was thankful it wasn’t more, with massive damage caused across the chain of islands, which lie to the west of Fiji.

Damage to kava production

Reuters also reported about the “devastated kava crop”, which is “a major export and vital source of cash for subsistence farmers in the South Pacific island nation.” Prime Minister Joe Natuman said:

“The economy will be seriously affected. The tourism sector will be affected … Kava will also be affected.”

A Radio Australia report estimated that 96 per cent of the country’s root crops were damaged, according to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Damage to the kava crop was estimated by Vincent Lebot, a French geneticist based in Vanuatu, who suggested that about a third of the country’s crop had been destroyed.

The southern island of Tanna was particularly severely hit. The following comment from Lebot shows how far-reaching the impact of the kava crop is in the South Pacific:

“The impact will be very severe on the local economy. Many children continue to go to school because their parents pay the school fees thanks to kava.”

Cultural effects

Because kava is deeply embedded in the fabric of South Pacific life, damage to its availability also affects the region culturally and spiritually.

As well as being a much-loved social drink, and a way of bringing parties together to talk, kava has long been the drink of chiefs and spiritual leaders in the region. According to Apo Aporosa, from New Zealand’s Massey University:

“Kava is the dominant cultural icon for Pacifica people and the icon of identity for them…When a child is born, kava is presented and for a lot of Pacifica people, they believe that if you fail to do that, the child’s life is cursed.”

Ronnie’s Nakamal, a particularly well-known kava bar in the capital, Port Vila, was razed to the ground by the cyclone. This bar was a 28-year stalwart of the kava scene, with owner Ronnie Watson introducing the delights of kava to countless tourists and expats, as well as locals. The Australian reported:

“The only thing left standing is a big, white freezer with a drum of kava inside that had been mixed the night before.”

There were over 100 kava bars in Port Vila before the cyclone. Kava in Vanuatu is known for being stronger than in Fiji, because the locals there usually drink it without drying the root first. This means that it can be a little “unpredictable”.

With the recent devastation from the cyclone, the whole of the kava industry in Vanuatu is set to become a little unpredictable. Best wishes for a quick recovery!

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Are You Trendy Enough For Kava?
Kava Life: The Taki Mai Experience On Video
Fijian Kava Industry Suffering: Post-Winston Update
Where is Kava and Taki Mai Going in 2016?
Cyclone Pam and the Effects on Kava Production