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By Zane Yoshida

Opportunities For Kava In A ‘Modern, Globalised World’

What are the opportunites for kava  in a world barely constrained by geography and distance? Where you can choose freshly-caught Indian Ocean tuna from supermarket shelves in Europe; or enjoy French cheese and wine on a remote island in the South Pacific?

The ‘globalised world’ certainly makes many things possible for kava – and that is perhaps what is behind the recent activities to start regulating and protecting the kava industry in the South Pacific region.

A few years ago kava was barely known outside of the region. Now people are experiencing the benefits of kava in the kava bars and health food stores of the U.S. and Europe.

But this is only the start. If things are managed well, there should be a bright new dawn for kava farmers and exporters everywhere. This point was made in a recent Aljazeera report from New Zealand, which talks of kava’s assured place in a ‘modern, globalised world’.

Constraints and challenges

Unfortunately, there are plenty of constraints and challenges for the kava industry to overcome first. Some of these include:

  • Kava is a slow growing crop – taking up to six years to fully mature and be ready for harvest.
  • It is susceptible to disease and natural disasters – which can devastate crops and reduce supplies, such as experienced after Cyclone Winston earlier this year.
  • Kava strength and effects can vary – different kava varieties produce different kavalactone concentrations and different ‘chemotypes’, which produce different effects.
  • Quality can vary – without strict regulations, manufacturers do not have clear standards to abide by.
  • Western government regulations are often heavily weighted against developing countries, making it difficult for kava to break-through into international markets.

The opportunities for kava

However, with these challenges comes great opportunity.

Kava’s relaxing properties are quite well understood but the true limits of its medicinal properties are really just being explored. Whilst Fijians and other Pacific islanders have been extolling the health benefits of kava on the islands for centuries, proving these to the rest of the world is another matter.

But huge potential exists in this area. People are becoming less trusting of pharmaceuticals and interest in alternative medicine is growing.

The Aljazeera video above mentions how exponents of Chinese medicine are becoming increasingly interested in the properties of kava. If this catches on, then it’s a question of how supply can meet soaring demand from China and elsewhere.

We have only just scratched the surface when it comes to investigating the properties of kava as an alternative treatment for insomnia, stress, depression, and other ailments.

In-depth clinical studies are expensive, and beyond the budgets of most interested parties. But there is potential if groups join forces for funding. And, given the potential gains, it could be a worthwhile investment, as kava continues to repair its reputation after the now-overturned European bans.

Meanwhile, we at South Pacific Elixirs will continue to do our bit to establish elite, disease-free varieties of kava that produce predictable and consistent effects; and to support the push for kava standards to be developed for the region, as this can only be good for the future of kava.

By Zane Yoshida

Is There Enough To Go Round – As Kava Demand Grows?

As Fiji recovers from the effects of Cyclone Winston, and local Fijians face a shortage of their beloved root, increasing kava demand from overseas is putting extra pressure on the kava market.

It’s been well reported that farmers were forced to harvest early on some of the major kava producing islands in Fiji; this has led to price increases and shortages of kava a few months down the line.

It’s not just Fiji feeling the strain, either. A recent severe drought destroyed many plantations in nearby Vanuatu.

This has wide-reaching implications, not just on quantity – but also on quality. Pacific nation governments are currently on a drive to educate farmers in the region about the importance of quality, both for domestic and export markets, so any downturn in quality due to the shortages will not be welcome.

Meeting local and international kava demand

In truth, the governments know how important kava is to the local economy, so every effort will be taken to maintain its quality.

Fiji earned $20.9 million from kava exports between 2012 and 2014, and this is on the increase; exports to the US alone are expected to reach $15 within the next 12 months.

There have been many challenges to the kava industry in recent years – not only from climactic effects on crops, but kava bans too. So the present shortage is just one more hurdle to pass. The renewed focus on ‘noble’ kava varieties will help to safeguard the all-important future of the industry.

Kava is gaining popularity in the west for both its medicinal properties (anti-anxiety, especially) and as a healthier alternative to alcohol.

In the United States, there are already over 100 kava bars. Increasingly, these have been opening in major urban centres like New York and Chicago, instead of the traditional kava bar beach communities of California and Florida.

In New Zealand, a country with a population of only 4.5 million, it is estimated that 20-25,000 people drink kava on a Friday or Saturday night.

Kava is a slow-growing crop and can take five years for its roots to mature. There are no short-term solutions to meeting increasing demand. But, by maintaining quality now, the growing worldwide reputation of kava will only increase in years to come – and that’s what really matters.

That’s why we have invested our own time and efforts into growing elite kava varieties in our nurseries on Ovalau Island in Fiji. This represents the future of Taki Mai shots, capsules, and instant kava!

By Zane Yoshida

Kava and New Zealand: A Blossoming Relationship

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.

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

Now Shipping! Taki Mai Kava Shots, Powder & Capsules

Just a reminder that the Taki Mai online store is now open for business for customers in Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong…where you can order your supply of Taki Mai kava online and make sure that you’re always in the chill zone.

Not all Taki Mai kava products are currently available in every location. Here’s what you can expect right now, though this is likely to change in the near future:

  • AUSTRALIANS: take a break from your hectic lives with kava capsule supplements; these are particularly popular for people who are travelling (and can’t get near a kava bowl) or have just worked out; other use it just before sleep.
  • NEW ZEALANDERS: kick back with a flavored 3oz Taki Mai kava shot in coconut, chocolate banana, guava or pineapple flavor. These are shipped in packs of 6. Kava root powder (just add water!) is also available.
  • HONG KONG residents: enjoy the coconut, guava, pineapple, or chocolate banana flavored 3oz Taki Mai kava shots.

Free shipping is even provided with Hong Kong orders ($10 for Australia and New Zealand) – so why not check out the online store and never run out of kava again.

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Opportunities For Kava In A ‘Modern, Globalised World’
Is There Enough To Go Round – As Kava Demand Grows?
Kava and New Zealand: A Blossoming Relationship
The Ever-Present Kava Bowl: From Politics to Rugby to Surf
Now Shipping! Taki Mai Kava Shots, Powder & Capsules