Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Trip Back to Chief's Jungle

Since I first reviewed Chief's Jungle last March I have warmed up a bit to the taste. Sure, it isn't the best tasting Kava out there. But it at least presents something of an alternative to the plentiful thick, creamy, peppery Kavas that are all over the market. Other than Niugini (not surprisingly), Chief's Jungle has a stand-alone flavor that is even - dare I say - somewhat refreshing. If you go back to my original review, I think I actually commented that this Kava tasted like "hell." Well, that was partially due to the fact that I was using Nakamal at Home's recipe - 1 cup of Kava to 3 cups of water (or was it 2 cups of water?). Anyhow, tonight I brewed 2 cups of this with 3 tablespoons of Chief's Jungle. The result was a much thinner, sweeter, and mildly piney Kava with a nice, fresh-mountain-air hued aftertaste.


In preparing this Kava, note the wonderful frothiness that bubbles to the surface. I'd be interested to know why this happens and what it means. I've heard from different sources that froth is a sign of freshness or potency - I can't figure out which one. I have drunk a lot of Wow!, and though it is potent it typically doesn't have the froth. My hypothesis is that it is somehow connected to the degree of fineness that the Kava is ground to. Chief's Jungle is twiggy, airy stuff and I feel like when I'm squeezing it air bubbles are bursting to the surface. Along with possibly bringing the froth, the grind of this Kava seems to retain some of the earthy, planty, or "grassy" flavors that are so typical of this blend.


The fact remains that this stuff will still absolutely obliterate you if not consumed in moderation. I tried a batch a few months ago that was pretty weak, but this batch (packaged on 12/14/10) is stunningly strong. Perhaps even a bit stronger than the very first batch I tried. After three shells, I have a pleasant, high-buzzing krunkness dominating my mind and body. In fact, the feeling is spreading throughout my body and growing stronger as I write this. Earlier today, my team was knocked out of playoff potential (San Diego Chargers) and I was quite unhappy about that, but after a few shells of this I feel like saying - for the [being on Kava] record - "better luck next time." My lips are buzzing and my eyes are heavy, my legs are mostly immobile, my mind at ease, and music is sounding quite nice. I can say I am doing quite better than I was about one hour ago, and I am definitely happy that I made the choice to brew up this Kava tonight. As I stated before, this Kava has much more of a "cannabis" feeling to it, whatever that means. It lifts your mind up and makes you feel high, rather than giving you the sinking, heavy, and slow feeling. Many have told me that Chief's knock them out, but this must be because they are making it to strong or drinking a lot at once. At any rate, if that is the feeling they are going for then more power to them. Kava Gods know that sometimes I'm looking for that vibe too.

Bottom line: Reconsidering the taste and feeling the potency again, I am convinced that this is still one of the best Kavas out there.

Same score/ranking as given in March, 2010.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kava by Rex - Tongan Pride

One of the most wonderful things about Kava is its incredible diversity. You get acquainted with a certain feeling from Kava and then suddenly find yourself face to face with something like you've never had before. A non-Kavasseur would never be able to tell the difference between a Vanuatu Kava from Tanna Island or a Fijian Kava. But a Kavasseur can tell the difference between Fijian Kava and a Tongan Kava, a Kava from Tanna Island or one from Pentecost Island. There is so much variety, and so much distinctiveness. One of my favorite weekday Kavas is Nakamal at Home's Tongan Kava, so I've learned to associate Tongan Kavas with a mellow, heavy-eye, muscle-relaxing feeling. Kava by Rex offers something that is almost the opposite of that.


Tongan Pride has a very strong taste, but one that is more sweet and creamy than piney and peppery. It is heavy, thick, and has quite a resilient sugary aftertaste. It is not the kind of "strong flavor" that you would find in a piney PNG Kava or a peppery Vanuatuan Kava. It tastes more like wood-flavored ice cream with a splash of a cashew flavor. I wouldn't call it too mild or easy to drink, but it is definitely not an unpleasant taste. After you down a shell you might feel the urge to shiver a bit, but not in a way that is entirely unlikeable. It has an interesting and unexpected flavor, but not one that I think I'll be craving too much.

The mental effect of this Kava is quite strange. It makes you really want to be around people. For anyone who feels awkward or uncomfortable in social situations, this is the perfect Kava for you. You might even begin calling friends that you've been meaning to call. Of course, if you drinking this Kava with someone else you will feel like talking, talking, and talking. It calms the nerves and makes you feel peppy. In fact, after about three shells I actually had a huge burst of energy and felt like getting up and moving around. Not exactly the kind of feeling most people, including me, associate with Kava.

One thing that surprised me about this Kava was that the effect all seemed to be mental. I didn't get any kind of significant body buzz beyond just a little initial warmth. The soreness I had in my legs from 12 miles of walking the day before was definitely gone, but I wasn't able to enjoy the full-body tingling and fuzziness that I get from other Kavas.


This Kava is a bit hard to rank, because it is so all-together different from other Kavas. How does one  compare the mental effects of an uppity Kava with those of a Kava that is more mild, sedative, and relaxing? This Kava would be brilliant for anyone who needed to feel comfortable speaking in front of public or before going to a high-nerve work party. But if you've just gotten home and want to sink into the couch, this isn't going to be your ideal Kava. I like it, but it doesn't really fit the bill. Thankfully, Kava by Rex carries a lot of other Kavas that do.

In sum: A great party Kava.

Taste - 8/10
Effect (Mind) - 8/10
Effect (Body) - 7/10
Strength - Medium

Kava by Rex's Tongan Pride - 7.6/10

Monday, December 13, 2010

Back To My Roots - "Wow!" Kava Revisited/30,000 Hit Anniversary Celebration

***About 10 minutes after finishing this review, I started to get an actual sense of "buzzing" in my head. I closed my eyes and felt my whole body sink into the couch. The world didn't seem to spin so much as sink, like a big sponge into a sea of warm water. My roommate asked me to help bring in groceries and I had a semi-hallucinogenic experience of dragging oars through water as I carried the bags through the house. Currently, I am feeling slightly sick and my hands are clammy, but I am also being washed over with waves of warm happiness. Yup, this is still the same stuff. I won't be getting into any cars anytime tonight. I'm just going to bake a pizza and laugh at the absurdity of it all. 

A long time ago (say, in February of 2009) I made the spontaneous decision to start a blog that reviewed Kava. I more or less just started it because I was looking for something exactly like it - and couldn't find it. Buying Kava shouldn't be stressful, so that's why I decided to try every Kava available and review it on one easy-to-navigate website. Even I consult my own website when making purchasing decisions. Well, today the website hit the 30,000 hit mark. In honor of this quite arbitrary anniversary, I have decided to mix up some Wow! Kava and revisit it a year later. These revisits are going to roll out on a semi-regular basis, as my Kava drinking has become more nuanced and my review strategies have changed. So consider this the first series of re-reviews that will roll out along with new reviews.



I can't remember how I originally ranked Wow! Kava, but I remember it being quite high. I also vividly remember the night that I first tried it - I became so krunked that I literally couldn't coordinate my hands on my keyboard. It was one of the only times I have ever downed enough Kava to feel sick. I got into a friends car to go out to dinner and had to say "woah man, turn around." Needless to say, I sobered up and wrote my review over a bowl the next day. In retrospect, I do remember using that 2:1 ratio that I look back on now as being preposterous

I must say that, though I appreciated the flavor of Wow! Kava the first time around, I didn't appreciate it enough. Compared to so many other Kavas, this stuff just melts in your mouth. It tastes as light and smooth as Malekula Magic but with an added sweetness to it. It has this bright, powerful white hue to it that looks more like a White Chocolate Mocha than a shell of freshly brewed Kava. Not much pepper or any other kind of spicy notes to this brew. It has more of a cashewy, thick, creamy flavor that makes you want to drink more. A truly one-of-a-kind Nakamal at Home Kava that keeps them at the very top of the Kava game. Let's all raise our shells to Nakamal at Home and say, Bula!



As for the effects, they still kick my ass. Now that I have a mental/body addition to my ranking, I can explore both of those angles. This Kava is very stimulating, with more of a calming *high* that perks you up a bit. On an empty stomach, I can reasonably say that Wow! has one of the most desirable feelings you can find in Kava. Significantly less "stony" than Solomon (which to me has become a gold standard for hypnotic, mind expanding Kavas) but not as driving and over-the-top as Chief's Jungle. The first time I drank this stuff I remember sitting on the couch and getting clammy hands and actually sweating a little bit. That was, of course, on the 2:1 mix. Tonight I am sitting quite relaxed, typing this out after three shells and enjoying some music. However, my mind feels quite washed over, cleansed, and sharp. I am able to focus my thoughts and, even after a day of jumping from one task to the other, just think about how much I love this Kava. How could you argue with that? I think I'll have another shell.

Being an every-other-day jogger, I often get a little soreness in my legs. I especially had it earlier today. Now, not so much. This Kava works for a great body high. I do have to say, however, that it is not nearly as potent in that respect as I remember. The first time I drank this stuff, I could barely stand up after drinking it. There is a strong possibility that it is getting a bit stale. But now that I've had another shell (the one I said I was going to drink in the last paragraph) I am beginning to float a little bit and lose some control over my limbs. Yup, there it is. Hahaha. Wow!!

Taste - 10/10
Effect (Mind) - 9.75/10
Effect (Body) - 9.5/10
Strength - Strong-Very Strong

Nakamal at Home's Wow! Kava - 9.75/10

Sunday, December 12, 2010

When To Drink Kava

Typically, I drink Kava six days out of the week. But timing a Kava session is crucial to getting the most out of your grog. I have learned this the hard way, by either drinking Kava too early, too late, or too much or too little at just the wrong time. I want to provide a few tips on getting the most out of your Kava, depending on what you want it to do for you. Also, it will give you further insight into how I set up my Kava reviews and how I assure that I am approaching each Kava under the same equal and "objective" circumstances.

My first rule is that I don't drink Kava after I have eaten a meal. This is really key to getting the most out of your Kava, or even enjoying it at all. Part of respecting your Kava is allowing it to fully embrace you. Kava on a full stomach is basically worthless. If you know you are going to drink Kava, make sure you plan your meals so that you can fit in Kava sometime just before dinner.

Winter months are the best for drinking Kava, because it gets dark earlier. I find that Kava is best consumed about 1 to 1 1/2 before the sun begins to set. Here in San Diego, 4:30-5:00 seems to be the best time for me to have a 24-ounce bowl of Kava ready for the drinking (my own serving) - if I have a guest over for a Kava session I make 48-ounce bowl. As I typically get home from work at around 4, this always turns out to be perfect. If I've had a light lunch (a general rule for me) at around 11:30-12:00, then by 4:30-5:00 I feel just hungry enough to know that I have an "empty stomach." This way, I can be well krunked before I sit down to eat. Conveniently, Kava seems to bring the bouquet of dinner to life and also weaken ones appetite to allow them to eat a decent, humble amount.

Of course, I save some Kava for after dinner. But typically, I drink this Kava a couple hours after dinner rather late in the evening.  A second Kava session after 8 or 9 o'clock is great for a second buzz and provides a rather ideal night cap (depending on the strain, of course!) Recently, I have started with a Vanuatu or PNG Kava in the early evening and ended the night with a Tongan or Fijian Kava.

I almost never drink Kava during the morning or early afternoon. I have, on occasion, drank instant Kava on stressful days. One thing I have noticed about daytime Kava is that it typically doesn't have the desired effect. You want to feel relaxed, less stressed, less anxious, etc. But typically, I just dread the fact that I have to continue going through the daily grind after I have had some Kava. "Oh, I was stressed out and now I've had some Kava. Now I feel really good but everything and everyone else around me is bright and fast and thinks I should be along for the ride." Yeah, not very agreeable. At least that's how I feel about it.

One of the great side effects of having a strict Kava drinking routine is that you tend to get healthier. You eat smaller portions at more regular times and tend to drink less alcohol. I used to love drinking beer, but now that I drink Kava so regularly I don't find as much time for beer. Also, we shouldn't forget that Kava is good for our minds and spirits. Drinking Kava regularly can cut anxiety out of your life almost completely. As most good Kavas stay with you for a full day, drinking it around the same time every day will keep you away from stress and tension throughout the day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Paradise Kava - 100% Hawaiian Awa

There doesn't seem to be any record for these kinds of things, but I'm quite sure that 2010 has probably been the best year for Kava yet. About five years ago, it was incredibly hard to find good, readily available Kava online. Now it seems like new vendors are opening every day, and that new, fresher Kava powders are been delivered to our door steps. Paradise Kava is one of the best new vendors I have tried, and even though I've only had their Southern Fiji Premium Kava and this Hawaiian Awa, I am thrilled to see what they come up with next. According to their website, they will be selling frozen, FedExed fresh Kava juice very soon. That will be a day for the history books.

Now, onto this 100% Hawaiian Awa. It's another record-setter in my book, and though I'm incredibly high on it right now, I'll do my best to type out an objective review. According to the Paradise Kava website, this is a blend of Hiwa, Mahakea, and Mo'i varieties (all familiar to those of us who have been ordering from Hawaiian Kava Center) that is sold as an extra fine ground dry root powder. I was fortunate enough to get a bag of this before the website even opened, and I was stunned by its taste, effects, and sheer beauty. Here are a few pictures of the ground powder and the resulting grog:





One thing that stands out about this blend is its anesthetic effect. As an almost nightly Kava drinker, I was surprised at how potently and thoroughly this stuff numbed up my tongue, throat, and jaw. I half expected a dentist to come charging through the back door with a drill and a collapsible chair. It is really quite something, and I haven't had such a strong reaction in that sense since I first drank Nakamal at Home's "Wow" Kava last year.

The taste of this Kava is incredibly mild. Let me walk through it. When you first touch your lips to the Kava, it has a bitter, nutty taste that is full and creamy like the very color of the brew. It then proceeds into a kind of peppery taste not unlike Nakamal at Home's Stone, but a bit longer lasting, more substantial, and thicker. I strained with a traditional Fijian strainer, so I didn't get any grit - but it still felt heavy and rooty and viney. That peppery flavor kind of naturally switches on the anesthetic response and soon it is impossible to discern the numbness from the flavor. It is like a blend of physical reaction and spicy flavor. Again, I'm krunked while writing this and obviously continuing to drink Kava. Heaven help the Kavasseur.

As for the effects, this might be the most agreeable Kava I have tried. As if I already didn't think my ranking, or grading, system wasn't good enough - now I have tried this. Mentally, it is abnormally relaxing. I got home from work around 4:00 and it is now 5:00, and just about 90 minutes ago I was driving home on the freeway getting cut off by people in cars much shinier than mine. Their faces like intent manipulative lizards, those careeners and dodgers are the very bane of modern life. Roads become stress tests and it seems all the annoying comments of the day are dealt with on these concrete arteries. Not mine, of course. I drive slowly and intently like a stream of thick Kava pouring from a shell. No reason to make the hectic hecticer. Let that stress roll off your back when you get home and down a couple shells - let it drift away and never come back. Yes, this Kava is the antidote. This Awa. This Hawaiian Awa. Drain a couple shells and it all falls behind you like a sickly murky dream. As the daylight sets and the Kava seeps into your blood, so does your heart slow down and your eyes grow heavy and kind. Your muscles fill with warmth and your skin tingles.  A blanket and some jazz on the couch? Why not? This Kava delivers mentally and physically, and feels crushingly strong. It's one of those grogs where you've downed three shells and then thought to yourself: "Was that too much?" I feel like articulating words and feeling out the contours of their sounds. I'm absolutely krunked.

So yeah, that's Paradise Kava's "100% Hawaiian Awa" for you. A new reigning champion. Sorry if that got a little too descriptive, but that's how my experience this dusk has been. Krunk on...

Flavor - 9.5/10
Effect (Mind) - 10/10
Effect (Body) - 10/10
Strong-Very Strong

Paradise Kava's 100% Hawaiian Awa - 9.83/10

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kona Kava Store - Kavalovetone 84% Capsules

Okay, okay. This about does in the Kona Kava Store in my book.

First of all, I didn't really want these capsules. Ordering them was a complete accident. I was trying to order their 84% liquigels for stressful situations, something to ease the tension during the day. But I get too generous with the clicks sometimes and found myself cursing at my computer after I saw "Thank You For Your Order!" There are apparently two 84% capsules sold by Kona Kava - one is kavalactone and one is kavalovetone. The Kavalovetone is a concoction of kava extract, St. John's Wort, gotu kola, and other herbs I am not even remotely interested in. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against love. But I do have something against replacing the beating heart of Kava with an ephemeral emotion. To top it all off, I immediately sent an email to Kona Kava Store to which they promptly replied "Too late, we already sent it." Really? Most Kava vendors are nice folks who keep the lines of communication open. Most would at least send out a complimentary bottle of the stuff I had intended to buy. You know, to keep the customer satisfied... I was a bit taken aback. Victims of their own success? Possibly.

Second of all, these capsules do absolutely nothing. The bottle said take 2-3, so I took 6. One hour later I was basically ready to cry into my palms for paying $30 for 60 powerless and pointless vegan gel capsules. Absolutely nothing. To add insult to injury, the bottle has a crappy little label on it that looks as if it was printed sometime in the late 1980s on one of those teeth-fed printers that made a racket and caused neighbors to shut their windows*. For $30 you'd expect something better than that. The capsules are these little cheap-looking clear caps that have that health food store smell we have grown to... love? I gave them a good hour before judging, and then another additional hour to make sure, and then I sighed deeply and took down a bag of Pacific Kava Waka Kava and dumped two tablespoons into a strainer bag. I proceeded to get as krunk as possible on two tablespoons/two cups of Waka Kava - not a difficult task.

I've ordered several Kona Kava products and got the same disappointing results. While the Mahakea powder is decent (at best), their other products are really gimmicky and will be sure to disappoint. I'm not even sure if these capsules had Kava in them.

Not a Kava powder, so I'm not going to break it down.

0 shells out of 10

*Readers younger than 25 years old, read on and ignore this archaeological reference.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Kava by Rex - Vanuatu Isa/Tudei

Kava by Rex seems to be the new game in town. So far, I've been overwhelmed by the fresh flavor and surprising potency of their Kavas. I also like the grind of it - it is nice and powdery and just smells wonderful when you open the bag. I've already reviewed the Vanuatu 3 Kava and tried the Fiji Waka blend (to be reviewed soon), and both of those tasted fresh and felt great. But tonight I brewed up a batch of Vanuatu Isa/Tudei and was really impressed.

I can't figure out whether or not there is legitimacy to the claim that this is Piper wichmanii, though the Kava by Rex website admittedly explains that it is "speculated" to be so. To those who don't already know, Piper wichmanii is the wild variety of Kava that the various varieties of Piper methysticum were derived (domesticated) from. It is said that Piper wichmanii stills grows wildly in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu and could have been endemic to either of those two contemporary countries. The website also claims that this Kava may last for two days, which I also can't confirm or deny at this point. One thing is for sure: with the kind of pleasant "happy" buzz it gives I certainly hope it really does last two days.



This Kava is quite thick and very typical of Vanuatu Kava. It has a mild peppery flavor to it which I think is much subdued by the prescribed preparation method - 2 tablespoons to 16 oz. of water. It is very delicious and reminds me a bit of Nakamal at Home's "Wow!" Vanuatu Kava. There are actually a few similarities that lead me to wonder whether there is some connection between the two varieties.



It gives off a subdued, giddy kind of feeling that is warm but perky. I was actually feeling a bit tired prior to drinking it but was pleasantly surprised by a kind of "second wind." If you're a Kava kavasseur, you'll understand when I say this Kava helps you "breathe deeply." It makes you want to stretch your body and massage your muscles. It takes away all sense of pain in your muscles and joints. Of all the Kavas I have tried this one seems the most appropriate to be placed in the category of "medicinal." It also has very mild but pleasant psychological effects, reducing feelings of stress and overwhelming worry that too often accompany our "modern" lives. In fact, as I write this I must report that I feel better right now - in this blissful and rested moment - than I have in a few days. As I said above, if this truly is Tudei (two day) than I have found yet another great companion in the Kava universe.


Taste - 8/10
Effect (Body) - 9.5/10
Effect (Mind) - 9.5/10

Kava by Rex Vanuatu Isa/Tudei 9/10

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kava by Rex - Vanuatu 3 Special Edition

For me, this Kava is something of a return to Vanuatu. In J. Marteen Troost's "Getting Stoned With Savages" he discusses the intense competition between Melanesian islands in trying to boast the "strongest, best Kava." I feel like I've been, at least mentally, running around the south Pacific looking my own favorite Kava. My own strongest, best Kava. Papau New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, the Solomon Islands, and Samoa. There are so many island nations with so many different kinds of Kava. Creamy, delicious and fresh Fijian Kavas. Hypnotic, deep, and sensual Solomon Island brews. Naughty, rough, and primal Guinean shells. But Kava drinkers must remember that it all started in Vanuatu. Or maybe Papau New Guinea.... well, it's up in the air. But one thing is certain - Vanuatu is the beating heart of Kava Kava.

So I was delighted to try not only a new Vanuatu Kava, but a new Kava vendor. I had heard great things about "Kava by Rex." One of these great things included being able to brew 16 oz. of grog with only a tablespoon. Wait, really? Yes. Indeed.



I know I say this a lot, but this Kava tastes really great. Owing to its totally different consistency from other Kavas available on the market - once again, 16 ounces of water to 1 tablespoon of Kava - it is slightly lighter, milkier, and creamier. No really spiciness to it, nor grittiness. But it also has a complete taste, and doesn't taste like "watered-down" Kava. It has a very "soft" taste which temps the drinker into making the somewhat presumptuous decision to drink a lot of it. I drank about six shells, pushing myself to make the not-too-difficult decision to brew a second bowl.

But the best thing about this Kava is that it didn't really get me krunked. It just got me.. well... happy. After all, it had been a long day, and I deserved it, right? I... think.. I'll.... have.... another....

Well, nevermind that. Maybe I was krunked after all. My legs felt quite heavy, nay, like two heavy logs attached to my thighs. My eyes felt deep, strong, and acute. My muscles felt warm, un-coiled and massaged. My mind grew steadily more relaxed. I was able to really enjoy the book I was reading on the post-colonial Congo (don't ask) with a nice rumbling jazz soundtrack to guide the narrative along. Shell after shell, I grew more and more content. About three hours later I was able to crawl into bed, put on some music, and become enveloped in great warmth.

This is really good Kava.


Really, at $25.00 a pound and 1 tablespoon to 16 ounces of water, how could you refuse?

Kava by Rex - Vanuatu 3 Special Edition

Taste 9/10
Effect (Mind) - 9.5/10
Effect (Body) - 10/10
Strength - Medium-Strong

Vanuatu 3 Special Edition - 9.5 shells out of 10

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More Kava Reviews Coming Soon!

Kavasseur has been a bit slow recently as a result of other obligations. But never fear, I have been continuing to order and drink different varieties of Kava and new reviews will be up very shortly. Readers can look forward to reviews of the following Kavas in the next few weeks:

Kava By Rex Vanuatu 3 Limited Edition
Paradise Kava 100% Hawaiian Awa
Kava By Rex Fiji Waka
Hawaiian Kava Center Mo'i

Also, if you want to submit your own reviews or share Kava stories, email me at kavasseur@gmail.com and I will post them on the blog.

Thanks, Douglas

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Paradise Kava - Southern Fiji Premium Kava

Nothing is more exciting in the Kava world than the debut of a new Kava seller online. I learned about Paradise Kava some months back - through casual internet browsing - and arranged to have a sample of their up-and-coming line of Kavas delivered to me prior to November 1, the launch of their website. I just received two of their Kavas - 100% Hawaiian Awa and southern Fiji Premium Kava - a few days ago and finally got around to brewing one up tonight.

As you can see from the picture, this Kava literally came as a small sample in a sandwich bag. There was about a full cup of Fijian dried root, and I wanted to save some for a second brewing. Upon opening the bag, I encountered one of the freshest smelling Kavas I have ever encountered. I don't know why, but everytime I open a bag of Fijian Kava I think to myself "now this is why I continue to drink Kava." This reminds me a lot of Pacific Kava's Waka Kava, which I reviewed some months back. It just smells great. I mixed 1/2 cup of Kava with 2 cups of water and let it sit for about 15 minutes before squeezing it through twice. The final product was a clean, milky Kava with a smooth texture and wonderful scent.



I don't pretend to be impartial about this - I love Fijian Kavas. Although I typically rate Vanuatu, Solomon, and PNG Kavas higher on rankings, I actually prefer to drink Fijian or Tongan Kavas. It is like the difference between a relaxing, tasty wine and a shot of whiskey. On most nights, you're going to want to reach for the wine. That is how I feel about Fijian Kava. It's a Thursday night and I'm a bit wound up after a hard day of work - time for some Fijian Kava.

Paradise Kava has sourced out a fine dried root powder that is fresh, tasty, and potent. It has that clean, smooth quality to it that permits you to put back several shells rather casually. As someone who has tried more than 20 strains of Kava, I want to emphasize that this Kava tastes absolutely wonderful. It has a low, soft, and creamy texture with a refreshing high bite to it. If you have had a good Hawaiian Kava - like Hawaiian Kava Center's "Hiwa" - you will know exactly what I'm talking about. The finish is smooth and the aftertaste has a pleasant chalkiness to it. Yes, I said "pleasant chalkiness."

The effects are most pronounced on the de-stressing and muscle relaxing fronts. Yet as with most Fijian Kavas, you are not going to be bowled over by an overwhelmingly strong punch. These Kavas are celebrated for their casual nature, for their sociable qualities, and for their medicinally mild stress-soothing properties.

A winner indeed.

Taste - 10/10
Effect (Mind) - 8/10
Effect (Body) 8.5/10

Paradise Kava - Southern Fiji Premium Kava - 8.8/10

Strength - Mild-Medium

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vanuatu Kava Store - Tanna Marang

This is a great, mild, weekday Kava that will ease your stress while letting you relax reassured that it won't be too challenging to wake up the following morning and head off to work.

The taste is similar to Tanna Kaolik, though with a little bit of an added peppery flavor that probably also signifies its increased strength. It goes down very smooth and would be an ideal Kava for a first time drinker - good taste, mild effects, great for long Kava sessions. I made 2 cups of Kava/6 cups of water and shared with a friend. We drank through it slowly and by the end of the night were in the absolute ideal state of mind to part ways before heading home for some sleep. I would suggest serving this Kava with ice as it compliments the flavor quite well.

The mind effect is a mild, heady buzz that is most pronounced around the temples. Has a nice gentle effect on the eyes that is "stony." I would say this is an ideal Kava for its anti-anxiety effects and would be perfect for a weekday night. However, if you are a fan of Malekula Magic it would probably be best to stick with that delicious, consistent blend. Not too powerful on the muscles and limbs, which left me a little wanting, but still very nice overall.

Flavor - 8/10
Effect (Mind) - 9/10
Effect (Body) - 8/10
Strength - Mild

Tanna Marang - 8.5/10

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kule's Kava Farm - Fiji Kava



What can I say, this tastes and feels pretty much like any Kava I've had from Fiji, with the single exception of Waka Kava from Pacific Kava. No hard feelings towards this Kava, or Nakamal at Home's Fiji Kava, but it is just not a buzz that I crave too much. Pleasant, tasty, and mellow? Yes. Mind-blowing and extra stress-relieving? No.

Of course, Fijian Kavas taste wonderful. Very refreshing and easy to put down, perfect for sitting around with friends. You could easily take down five or six shells of this stuff by yourself and still feel like drinking more. Very light, creamy, and smooth. Has quite the nice anesthetic effect on the lips, and doesn't cause any kind of serious gag effect or upset stomach. This would be the ideal Kava for a newcomer or for a Kava party. Probably even more ideal would be a cold pitcher of this at a Kava bar.

The effects are nice, with a mild stimulating buzz and a pleasant body high. Fijian Kavas - again, with the exception of Pacific Kava's Waka Kava - always strike me as being very utilitarian. You can brew this stuff up and just drink all night without having to worry about being blasted too far off. Imagine downing five or six shells of Solomon or Wow, that would take you pretty deep into the jungly heart of Kava-world. Fiji Kava allows you to be yourself with a little added buzz; it's a nice Kava that likes to be neutral in a world of extremes. Like I said in earlier reviews of Nakamal at Home's Fiji Kava, this stuff is good to keep around for Sunday and Monday nights. No excuse to get krunk, but you still need some Kava. I like it.

Flavor - 7.5/10
Effect (Mind) - 7/10
Effect (Body) - 7/10
Strength - Mild

Kule's Kava Farm Fiji Kava - 7.2/10

Kule's Kava Farm Fiji Kava, PNG Kava, and Vanuatu Melomelo can all be purchased from Amazon.com for a good price. Plus, you'll get 'em really quick:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hawaiian Kava Center - Mo'i Kava

These Hawaiian Kavas are quickly rising up on the Kavasseur's list of favorites, and Mo'i is no exception to the trend. With superb flavor, stimulating yet mellowing effects, and a medium strength that puts this Kava easily on the weekday menu, this could become the new "Kava of choice" for happy hours in Kavaheads' homes.

When you open a bag of Kava from Hawaiian Kava Center, it is a divine experience. They package their kava in vacuum-sealed bags that, once again, look like they were designed for espresso. It has a beautiful cocoa-tint and is ground to a thick powder that is not too fine and not too coarse. The kava looks and smells so good that it feels great to knead it through the mesh.


I would describe the flavor of this Kava as exceptional. It is that very top of my Kava list when it comes to flavor. As the description of the site claims, Mo'i Kava has definite chocolate notes with thick, almost buttery undertones. When I squeezed my second batch of Mo'i, I tried to build on its natural chocolately flavor by adding a pinch or two of cocoa powder. All I can say is this - I highly recommend trying it. A lot of purists don't like to mix Kava with anything, but try this out and you'll be glad you did.

It is a high, stimulating Kava that feels a lot like what I've come to expect from Hawaiian Kavas. Not what you are looking for if you prefer the effects of Solomon Kava, Tongan Kava, or Stone Kava. But it's very good for company and for new Kava drinkers who might be adverse to the flavor of Stone, Solomon (which I think tastes great, personally), or Chief's Jungle. It doesn't knock you off your feet the way that some Kavas do, but refined Kava drinkers know that is not what to look for in a good Kava. I feel like a good Kava does three things: gives you an immediate de-stressing, is easy to control by gauging intake (doesn't fall back or creep too suddenly), provides some kind of happy respite. There are some Kavas that, to me, just hit me too strongly or too weakly and then bounce around.

Flavor 10/10
Effect (Mind) 7.5/10
Effect (Body)7.5/10
Strength - Medium

Hawaiian Kava Center  - Mo'i Kava 8.3/10

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kule's Kava Farm - PNG (Papau New Guinea) Kava

I was surprised by this Kava. Or, I should say, I am surprised by this Kava. I certainly underestimated it. I am krunk beyond belief right now after mixing 1 cup of this Kava with 3 cups of water and drinking two and a half shells. As a matter of fact, I felt downright sick about ten minutes ago and then stood up, got my bearings, drank a glass of water, and am now sitting down writing this. I still feel a bit dizzy, to be honest. It reminds me of the first time I drank Nakamal at Home's Wow, except perhaps I don't feel like throwing up. Now that the initial dizziness and enormous lift-off seem to have run their course, I feel great. Honestly, I wasn't expecting this Kava to be so strong, so I'll just write this review up "as is" in order to try to make some kind of document of this experience for the books. Haha.

Well, it should be clear by now that this would probably not be the best Kava for someone who has never experienced the holy root's power before. It was actually a bit much for Le Kavasseur, to be honest. I didn't get any inclination of its strength from its flavor, that's for sure. As can be seen in the pictures included in this review, this PNG Kava is ground much finer than most PNG Kavas. That makes it much more substantive and dense than many PNG Kavas (including Chief's Jungle) and thus turns a cup of powder into a real mind-twister. It has a very good taste (again, contrary to what the website says!) that feels stranded somewhere between a strong Vanuatu Kava and a good Fiji Kava. Very thick with some peppery notes, but overall very delicious despite the propensity to want to gag at the very end of each shell. Not too unusual, and certainly not unfamiliar territory for a daily Kava drinker, but definitely surprising for something that tastes so good. Just to clarify, I typically can put down the first shell of any Kava pretty easily and with total awareness to the complex flavors - but when I sink the second or third shell, I usually do gag a little bit.


This Kava has very strong mind and body effects, with the mind buzz being almost too high at first and then tapering off to a clean, pleasant buzz after about thirty minutes. Initially, this Kava feels like it cranks up your heart rate a notch and gets you a bit dizzy. If you are feeling this way, don't fear, just stand up and walk around a bit after drinking a couple glasses of water and eating something with carbohydrates in it. After about twenty minutes, that initial feeling should taper into something more familiar - a mellow, stony Kava buzz. It does feel like Nakamal at Home's "Chief's Jungle" a little bit, but I would venture to say it feels a little better. Possibly more in the "Wow" range. It works as a great muscle relaxer, because I had some pretty severe soreness in my legs before I drank it. Overall, this is a very powerful Kava with very powerful effects. Be careful, folks.


Flavor - 8/10
Mind Effect - 9/10
Body Effect - 9.5/10

Strength - Very Strong

Kule Kava Farm's PNG Kava - 8.8/10

Kule Kava Farm's Sampler Pick Can Be Purchased Here:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kule's Kava Farm - Melomelo (Vanuatu)

Kule's Kava Farm offers Kava from different islands, apparently one from each of the major countries that celebrate Kava as one of their exports: Vanuatu, Fiji, Hawaii (US), and Papua New Guinea. If you order the Sampler Pack from their home website, which I did, you will get the Papua New Guinea Kava. You cannot order the PNG Kava by itself, apparently. For around $50, the Sampler Pack really is quite a good deal, especially considering that you can squeeze this stuff quite a bit before it runs dry.

Melomelo is a pretty run-of-the-mill Vanuatu Kava with a strong flavor and a heady, pleasant buzz. Owing to said flavor, however, I wouldn't brew this one up for newbies. It has a very thick, peppery taste with quite a sharp bite that stays in your mouth after you've downed a shell. When people talk about "Kava anxiety," they are referring to the anxiety that comes from this kind of pungent, "hot" Kava. It feels like it might give you an unsettled stomach, but it doesn't. Fortunately, you can brew quite a bit of Kava from one cup of dried powder - I was able to get a strong, consistent Kava by mixing 1 cup of Melomelo with 3 1/2 cups of water.

The buzz is certainly the better half of the package. It is comparable to Black Sand but is perhaps a notch weaker in its muscle-relaxant properties. It has more of a "heady" feel to it that acts as a kind of mild stimulant in a way similar to a Hawaiian Kava. The perky buzz is not something I have ever experienced from a Vanuatu Kava, so it is rather interesting. The website claims that Melomelo is given its name because of its very relaxing properties, which I find curious. This Kava seems like it would be better for socializing than fully relaxing.

As a side note, the website claims that this Kava is simply uprooted, dried in the sun, and then processed into its powder form. I definitely feel like the skin of the root is what gives it its strong flavor. Not something I prefer, but definitely worth trying at least once.

Flavor - 6.5/10
Body Effect - 6/10
Mind Effect - 7.5/10
Strength - Medium Strength

Kule's Kava Farm "Melomelo" Kava - 6.7/10

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hawaiian Kava Center - Hiwa Kava

If you have ever wanted a great-tasting Kava that you can share with your friends and talk deep into the night over, look no further.

Due to amazing and creative presentation, unparalleled freshness, superior taste, and a high-quality, long-lasting Kava "buzz," this easily ranks as one of the best Kavas I have ever found on the internet. Hawaiian Kava Center ships their Kava in vacuum-sealed bags that look like they would sooner contain espresso beans than Kava. Rather ironically, "Hiwa" Kava produces a clean, stimulating Kava high that mimics what an anti-anxiety coffee might feel like. This Kava doesn't make you feel even remotely tired - just blissfully happy and grateful. In other words, the presentation matches the product quite accurately. 
 
I mixed about 2 cups of Kava/9 cups of water with six friends of mine about one hour before and then again one hour after a nice meal. Of course, the first batch hit the best - we drank it on empty stomachs. The initial surprise with Hiwa is the taste - this stuff just tastes, well, magical. Clean, fresh, potent, numbing, complex, smooth. All of those words could be defined by the taste of this Kava. It has no bitterness to it, just a smooth, creamy texture and an almost buttery finish. It has a pretty strong anesthetic effect followed by an almost immediate draining of stress from your muscles, mind, limbs, and soul. The flavor and the effects dance together quite well. It is one of those really lovely Kavas where its hard to separate the components apart from each other. The mind mirrors the body and the body mirrors the mind. Yeah, I know that sounds a bit like contrived beatnik poetry, but it can't be said any other way.

This is only the second Hawaiian Kava I have tried, the other being Kona Kava. This blows Kona Kava away. Hawaiian Kava Center is extremely professional, quick to ship, and non-gimmicky. A 16 oz. bag goes quite a long way, and the powder is finely ground - which seems to preserve the freshness and the kavalactones. Though the website may come across as simple and to-the-point, don't let that discourage you from buying and trying this stuff. This is now my number one recommended Kava, with very high rankings in all respects.

Flavor - 9.5/10
Effect (Mind) - 10/10
Effect (Body) -10/10
Strength - Medium-Strong

Hawaiian Kava Center's "Hiwa" Kava - 9.8/10

Monday, September 13, 2010

Take 10 For Sleep - Review by Kaiden Fox

It’s probably not the best time for me to be reviewing a new kava, but it’s probably the best time to be drinking kava anyway. If your life is at all like mine, you’ll enjoy some kava at the end of a day like today.

I have to explain tomorrow to my boss’s boss’s boss why I insist that that a yellow guy with a slanted eyes, lemon-yellow skin and a conical hat is an offensive racist caricature. Oh, wait, that’s right… Pekin, IL no longer calls their team the “Pekin Chinks” and thus has abandoned that mascot. The kava must have confused me, or maybe the other stuff they add to it in this mixture. The actual mascot I have to explain is an offensive caricature is Chief Wahoo. This is on top of arguing over an incorrect $35 charge, trying to choose a schedule when I don’t really know what will work best with classes, a car in need of repairs (but not dire need), and just a generally messed-up life situation.

Well, this stuff appears to be more or less kava. The taste isn’t too bad. I expected sweet. People like sweet. Kava isn’t sweet. I don’t think kava is bitter, but it is “earthy.” That is perhaps the best way to describe kava. This anti-energy shot is not “earthy.” Originally, I wasn’t going to rate the flavor, because the flavor isn’t kava. But, it’s not the citrus “rancid Mountain Dew” taste of an energy shot. The flavor is “blackberry,” and they come pretty close to mimicry of a berry flavor. Naturally, the recommendation to put the tropical fruit away goes double here. While I almost never cleanse my pallet with fruit after kava these days, I do recall a Laura Ingles Wilder story about a birthday party with cake and lemonade. The girl took a sip of lemonade, thought it was sweet, took a bite of cake, thought it was sweet, and took another sip of lemonade, and thought it was sour. The cake is a lie. I won’t lecture anyone on diet today, other than to say a good way to appreciate kava, as well as appreciate the taste of natural foods in general, is to completely eliminate all sugar and sugar substitutes and never look back. Of course, this is hypocritical of me to recommend as I drink a sorbital-sweetened elixir.

This is definitely kava, and a few other things. This is the first time I’ve drank kava since Monday, but the kava effects I’m feeling are probably due to the build-up effect. If this anti-energy drink is your first introduction to kava, it is probably a truer way than pills but a less frightening way than a shell or two of prepared or even instant kava.

Rather than using a shell, I am drinking these shots in-situ. Partly this is out of respect for the shell, and partly because the intent of the packaging is to have the drink be self-contained. 

For effects, it is really not quite as “body” as many of the other kavas, but it is relaxing. Fatiguing, even, perhaps. Mentally, I feel creative but not under pressure. (To be fair, I started writing after deciding I had enough after writing a few paragraphs about the epistemological failure of H. Sapiens to grasp death as a state). Music euphoria is present. I’m listening to tracks with trance roots, four-on-the-floor beats, beats made for dancing, straight drum beats and a female vocal. This, according to Pandora.com, is the music I prefer when listening to kava.

This isn’t just kava, of course. We’re looking at a combination of various somewhat-narcotic herbs. With valarian and passionflower, this produces very relaxing sleep complete with the vivid dreams that kava sometimes incudes. The product, “Take 10 For Sleep,” lives up to its name. There does not appear to be much of a morning-after effect, but I did wake up quite happy.

At $4.50 for two bottles, (and the package says not to take more than two bottles at once), it’s about on par on the cost of a shell at a North American nakamal. I would recommend this product for short trips where you expect to have your luggage searched and don’t want to explain why you have a zip-lock bag of brown powder that numbs the lips and tongue when tasted.

Taste 9/10 (this is compared to “energy shots,” not kava)
Effect, 8/10

Overall, 8.5/10 “shots” of sleeping potion.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Vanuatu Kava Store - Tanna Kaolik

Despite Vanuatu Kava Store's claim that Tanna Kaolik is the strongest Kava from Tanna Island in Vanuatu, Tanna Kaolik is overall a relatively mild Kava that is appropriate for weekday consumption. I thought I was going to be getting myself into something overwhelming when I squeezed out a batch of Tanna, but in the end I was able to drink about 5 cups and only get a mild buzz with a little bit of pleasant tiredness. 

Vanuatu Kava Store's two Tanna Kavas - Tanna Kaolik and Tanna Marang - both come from Tanna Island in Vanuatu. The video featured on Vanuatu Kava Store's website which is used to aid Kava drinkers in how to brew Kava features scenes from Tanna Island.


Tanna Kava is definitely not a "strong" Kava, as advertised on the VKS website. Again, it is difficult to know whether this is a problem with consistency or just because it is simply not a strong Kava. It is, at best, a slightly relaxing Kava that provides a good way to wind down after a long day. Unfortunately for Tanna Kaolik, there is already a perfect Kava for that - Malekula Magic. If I'm putting down money at the Vanuatu Kava Store, it's going to be on Malekula Magic.



In terms of taste, it is a pretty run-of-the-mill Kava with no really impressive differences. It has a pretty mild numbing effect and can be described as a slightly peppery, somewhat bitter Kava that is comparable to other Vanuatu Kavas, such as Nakamal at Home's Black Sand. Again, I am not a huge fan of the bouquet of flavors provided by Vanuatu Kavas - I prefer the milky, nutty taste of a Tongan Kava or the fresh, delicious flavor of a Fijian Kava. That being said, VKS' Malekula Magic is a Vanuatuan Kava that is prepared by peeling the roots before drying and grounding them. Reviewed earlier, Malekula Magic is one of my favorites. Tanna Kaolik is not.

Taste - 7.5/10
Effect (Mind) - 7/10
Effect (Body) - 7/10
Strength - Mild

Vanuatu Kava Store's Tanna Kaolik - 7.2 out of 10 shells


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Let's Discuss Kava!

Responding to suggestions from contributors to this blog, I've set up a discussion board so that we can discuss Kava in a more organized environment (rather than just in comments sections).

Here is the link :http://kavalounge.yuku.com/ You will have to, of course, set up a free account with Yuku in order to post.

This weekend I will be reviewing the two Tanna Kavas sold by Vanuatu Kava Store. I've already sampled one of them and will be typing and posting the review by tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Message From Kavasseur

If you love Kava and are following this blog, please make sure that you check out the comments that follow each review or news story. Some of the best stuff on this blog is in the comments section, where we have fellow Kavasseurs posting about their own experiences with Kava and their own suggestions. Furthermore, these comments sections offer a great wealth of knowledge about the chemistry, origins, and distribution of Kava throughout the South Pacific.

Finally, add your own comments! In order to keep this blog alive, we need contributions from readers like you. Oftentimes, fellow Kavasseurs are my inspiration to post more and review more. We are a small but growing community. Drink more, review more, celebrate more!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How to Make Kava From Dried Root

I've been meaning to write up an illustrated piece on how I make Kava. It's a question I get a lot, and I think both first-timers as well as other Kavasseurs could benefit from seeing how I make it. It would be great to hear suggestions, advice, or any other tips you can offer related to how you make Kava.

Step 1 - Select Your Kava

Do you want weekend grade? Weekday grade? Weekday-with-nothing-too-important-the-next-day grade?

Step 2 - Collect your gear.

You will need two large bowls that can hold around 6 cups of water. You will also need soy lecithin. Next retrieve a large spoon, a ladle, and a measuring cup. It is good to have two sieves - a large sieve to squeeze the Kava, and a smaller finer sieve to strain the Kava after it is squeezed. At the end of this post, I have added a link to Kule Kava Farm's smaller sieves, which are absolutely perfect for the final strain.


Step 3 - Heat the water and add soy lecithin.

Once you have everything together, heat two cups of water until they are warm. Pour the warm water into one of the glass bowls and stir in the soy lecithin.



Step 4 - Add additional water and Kava.

Add two more cups of water to the initial two cups of warm water and soy lecithin, so that you have four cups of water with soy lecithin. Next, add ONE cup of Kava - compacted - to the water. If you want more Kava than this, double up your order (two cups of Kava to eight cups of water). If you want a stronger Kava, use less water - though I don't normally like to drink Kava that is too thick.



Step 5 - Let your Kava sit.

Just let your Kava sit in the room temperature water for about thirty minutes. The finer the Kava is ground, the less you need to wait. However, it is always a good idea to let it sit for thirty minutes.



Step 6 - Squeeze your Kava.

This is the most important step, and one that makes or breaks the final product. Drape your larger sieve over the edges of your second glass bowl and pour half (if one cup of Kava/four cups of water) of the Kava into the sieve. Let the Kava move to the bottom of the sieve and squeeze it for about six minutes, dunking it in and out of the water and finally squeezing it into the root is fully dry. Take out the squeeze-dried Kava and pour in the second half of the bowl, repeating the same process. You can put all of the dried Kava aside and start the whole process over, creating a second, much weaker batch.

Step 7 - Final strain.

Once you are satisfied with the consistency of the Kava you have squeezed, pour it into the second bowl that is covered with a smaller, finer sieve. Gently squeeze whatever Kava is in the bottom out, being careful not to let the bigger pieces of Kava through.



Step 8 - Add ice (if desired) and serve.

This is how I make my Kava. No blender, just strength. I used to use less water, but realized that Kava tastes much better when it is more diluted. I like to be able to drink four or five shells. It would be interesting to hear other suggestions for brewing Kava. Bula!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vanuatu Kava Store - Malekula Magic

*A NOTE FROM KAVASSEUR* This Kava reviewing business is much more difficult than many people would imagine, especially when it has grown to be something significant in the online Kava drinking world. I'll be the first to admit that my ranking scales are slightly difficult to interpret, and have evolved over time as I've tried new Kavas. I've even had to go back and tinker with old reviews because some of them were too low - or too high. Additionally, Piper methysticum tends to be a fickle plant - some perk you up, some wind you down, some "stone" you, some are better for sore muscles, some are better for colorful dreams, and some can even bring a spark to a relationship. To even further complicate things, Kava builds up in your system and can increase in effect as you drink it. In the end, you are the judge of what Kava is best for you. What I try to do with this blog is explain how Kava hits me and what some of the stand-out Kavas are. I realize that people who enjoy the taste of Kava are NOT a dime a dozen, so when I digress on what I consider to be a "delicious" Kava, just bear with me...

Vanuatu Kava Store - Malekula Magic

First of all, three "Bulas!" to Vanuatu Kava Store for making some of the best tasting Kava available online. On all three reviews of VKS' Kavas I have praised them for making fine-tasting Kava. This review will be make no exception to that trend. I can still remember making a gallon of Pentecost Pride for some first-timers who commented "this stuff is not as bad as you told us it would be."

Malekula Magic is a beautiful Kava - in color, taste, feeling, texture, and effect. I know that it seems like every Kava that is passing through my sieves these days is getting rave reviews, but I feel like I've just hit a good stretch of road. It is like test driving a lot of different cars that you are really happy with - which one do you choose? With Kava, it is a good idea to have a lot of different varieties around. To the real Kavasseur, Kava is an almost daily ritual. You want something that is perfect for almost every state of mind. An alcohol-replacement for a Saturday night (Nakamal at Home's Solomon Kava, Chief's Jungle, or Stone), a relaxing Kava after a stressful day (definitely this Malekula Magic, Nakamal at Home's Tongan Kava, Pacific Kava's Waka Kava), a middle-of-the-road Kava for a weekday where you don't have to wake up too early the next day (Nakamal at Home's Niugini or Black Sand), and a good middle-of-the-day Kava for stressful days (VKS' Quick Kava). I've added a new aspect to my reviews - strength. This will reflect how much a particular Kava, well, gets you "high."

According to the Vanuatu Kava Store's website "when you buy Vanuatu kava of this [Malekula Magic] type expect a milder taste and a mellow ride and buzz." Indeed. This is almost the perfect description of this Kava, but I will elaborate on it a little bit. Malekula Magic is prepared by harvesting the roots of the plant and then peeling the skin off of the root. The "bitter" taste that often comes with Kava mostly comes from the skin of the roots. Malekula Magic, in other words, doesn't have the "bite" that most Kavas do. Even if you like - nay, love - the bitter peppery taste associated with a hearty Vanuatuan Kava, you will still absolutely love the taste of Malekula Magic. It doesn't really have that "milky" taste typical of a Tongan or Fijian variety, but more of just a level, slightly sweet flavor that seems to be all low notes with almost an almond-like aftertaste. Ideal for newbies in flavor, but still delicious for someone who drinks a lot of Kava and can appreciate a more sophisticated taste.

Malekula Magic is definitely, as described by Vanuatu Kava Store, "mellow." It gives you a very nice, earthy buzz that works the same in the head as it does on the body. In this sense, Malekula Magic provides a more "balanced" buzz than most Kavas. Some Kavas have quite an "off-kilter" effect. Solomon Kava and Chief's Jungle, for example, give you a very powerful head buzz (Solomon being the most disorienting of them all), but Malekula Magic is like a full body massage with a bonus headbuzz. Music sounds absolutely wonderful - for some reason I automatically reached for some Van Morrison. It makes you want to stretch your body out and just put all the stuff that has been bothering you for the day - or the week - aside. If I had to pick an everyday-consumption Kava right now, I'd pick Malekula. Why spend money for a Spa when you could just drink four shells of Malekula? This Kava would be worth keeping a kilo around. If you don't believe me, try it for yourself!

Again, this Kava deserves the rating it gets.

Taste - 9/10
Buzz - 9.5/10
Body - 9.5/10
Strength - Medium (Weekday Grade)

Vanuatu Kava Store's Malekula Magic - 9.3 shells out of 10

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pacific Kava - Waka Kava

I have to admit, this Kava caught me off guard. It is an excellent Kava. In fact, it is one of the best Kavas I have ever had the pleasure to drink.

I contacted Pacific Kava about one month ago asking them which of their Kavas I should sample. They only currently sell two varieties of Kava that come from one strain: Waka Kava which is the root of kasaleka Fijian Piper Methysticum , and Lewena Kava which is the stem part of the same variety. They advised me to try the Waka Kava first. I didn't realize that they were shipping from New Zealand until it arrived at my door in a small, plastic package that read "New Zealand Post". The first thing I noticed when I took it out of the mailbox was how heavy it was. This stuff is dense, powdery, and delicious. The bag (pictured below) is pretty basic - a ziplock bag with the Pacific Kava label on the front.



When I first opened the bag, I was greeted by probably the greatest scent you can experience from a Kava powder. This stuff smells fantastic, and its taste takes Kava to a whole new level. If you have ever tasted Nakamal at Home's Tongan Kava, or even their Fiji Kava, this Kava is pretty similar in taste - but better. It has that creamy base but still carries some peppery notes. It also has this unique, nay baffling, freshness to it that is almost like a sweet eucalyptus. It has a numbing effect that is pleasantly wedged between intermediate and high. I sampled it with some first-time Kava drinkers and they even commented that "actually, this tastes much better than we thought it would." I had prepared them for Kava anxiety, but probably won a few converts. Really, I am at a loss for words in describing the flavor of this Kava. It would probably be advantageous to take a video of just how beautiful the texture of this stuff is. Really, you have to try it.

Typically, Fijian Kavas are known for their subtlety and their good flavor. I don't think I have ever tasted a bad Fijian Kava. Waka Kava tastes amazing, but actually is a bit stronger than you would expect. It has an immediate effect. This Kava probably gave me more photophobia than I have experienced with other Kavas, but it makes the world seem like a soft, easier place. It doesn't give you photophobia in the sense that lights are offensive, but it gives you photophobia in the sense that you just want to be in a soft, low-lit place. A moonlit night by a pond would be ideal, or perhaps a half-moon bay with waves foaming up the beach shore, In short, this stuff gets you "high." It is like the Fijian equivalent of Nakamal at Home's Vanuatuan Wow! Kava. I can't say enough about this stuff - it is brilliant.

I will never underestimate a Fijian Kava again. Also, I will never again underestimate vendors who I haven't heard much about. Give Pacific Kava a try, you will be very pleased.

This one deserves its high rating:

Flavor 10/10
Mind Effect 9/10
Body Effect 9/10

Pacific Kava's Waka Kava (Kasaleka Fijian) - 9.3 shells out of 10

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vanuatu Kava Store - Quick Kava

Kava drinkers tend to be loyal. In Port Vila, Vanuatu, kavaheads can typically be found krunked at the same nakamals from night to night. Kavasseurs get into a certain Kava, learn to appreciate its consistency, become friendly with the person serving it up, and form our Kava bond. At a nakamal, this might mean strolling up to the same bar day after day and ordering up three shells of Kava; in the world outside, this means typing in our credit card information and waiting (im)patiently for our Kava to arrive at the door. When I first started getting serious about drinking Kava, I ordered up varieties from different vendors and started this blog as a way to collect my experiences and thoughts for myself, and to help others find the Kava they were looking for. The three vendors I ordered from were Nakamal at Home, Kona Kava, and Vanuatu Kava Store.

I would like to get something off my chest here: Kava sources seem to be inconsistent. I've had tins of Shaman instant Kava from Nakamal at Home that were underwhelming, and then I've had tins of Shaman that were extraordinary. I realize that there is probably very little that vendors can do about this, except perhaps forge good relationships with farmers and attempt to get honest judgments about the quality and consistency of their bulk purchases. To put it simply, I had a very poor experience with Vanuatu Kava Store's Pentecost Pride and didn't think I would ever order from them again. But it's good to give a store a second chance, especially when so many variables may possibly be at play.

One thing I don't typically discuss on Kavasseur is price. But it should be mentioned that VKS' Quick Kava is a great value. Take this into consideration: 100 grams of VKS' Quick Kava is $42.95, while 125 grams (N@H doesn't sell a 100 gram tin of Instant Kava) of N@H's Shaman Kava is $71.00. One could even go all out and by a full kilogram of VKS' Quick Kava for $189.95. That's a great deal.



Earlier in the month, I was asked to pit VKS' Quick Kava against N@H' Shaman Instant Kava. In a comment on Kavasseur, someone commented that while Shaman was "plastery," VKS' Quick Kava was pleasant in flavor and mild in effect. To be honest, it's a tough match. VKS' Quick Kava has a lot to offer in terms of taste, effect and value. I was pleasantly surprised by its flavor when I made my first shell. As with my review of Pentecost Pride, I have to admit again that VKS seems to know how to source out really good-tasting Kava.

VKS' Quick Kava doesn't taste like an instant Kava - it tastes like a freshly brewed bowl of decent, mid-strength Kava with an added "smoky" flavor. Shaman tastes like an instant Kava, and if you look back at my earlier reviews, that was one of my major complaints about it. In fact, the commenter called Shaman "plaster" tasting, and I actually think that is quite appropriate. But don't misunderstand me as stating that I think Shaman tastes "bad," because I'm not. VKS' Quick Kava has a very pleasant taste for any Kava, and must be commended for its very good flavor. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't have that gritty, thick flavor that a good shell of hand-squeezed Kava root would have, but it does offer something of a unique, somewhat smoky flavor that makes it quite enjoyable to drink.

It isn't as potent as Shaman. Not even close. But it's still good. Where Shaman feels like Vanuatuan dehydrated Kava juice, this makes me feel like VKS took some Tongan dried roots, brewed up a cistern of Kava, and dehydrated it into Quick Kava. Don't let this confuse you - VKS' Quick Kava IS a Vanuatuan Kava. The effects are very mild, but very pleasant. Some of you may know that I prefer Nakamal at Home's Tongan Kava for everyday drinking, so don't misinterpret this as a "bad thing." The effects of VKS' Quick Kava are very satisfying.

In this sense, VKS' Quick Kava succeeds as a good instant Kava. If you want to get krunked, you normally don't drink an instant Kava anyhow. VKS' Quick Kava is ideal for an on-the-go Kava drinker, who needs to mellow out a little bit without turning in for the night. Where Shaman is too strong to drink during the day (or before a presentation), VKS' Quick Kava would do the trick as a quick, nice-tasting relaxing beverage.



In the end, VKS' Quick Kava isn't quite capable of dethroning Shaman for the coveted title of "Best Instant Kava," but it does put up a very good fight. I almost want to say "it's too close to call," but I am quite fond of Shaman's potent abilities. In some respects, such as flavor, it beats out Shaman. In terms of its portability and its convenient calming qualities, it also outdoes Shaman. But it doesn't reproduce the strong, krunking effects that a fresh bowl of Kava would - something that Shaman mimics quite well. So if that's what you are looking for, stick with Shaman. It certainly beats out Fire Island in almost every respect.

With a great instant Kava flavor and mild-yet-satisfying effects, it stands alone as a good instant Kava. I'd reach for this before I'd reach for Fire Island, and quicker than I'd reach for Shaman on a weekday afternoon.

I highly recommend it.

Taste - 9/10
Mind Effect - 6.5/10
Body Effect - 7/10

Vanuatu Kava Store's Quick Kava - 7.5 shells out of 10

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The War on Kava

At the beginning of this month, Kava resurfaced in the news as part of a concerted campaign spearheaded by Consumer Reports. It was listed as part of the "dirty dozen" supplements that can be purchased online and in health food stores - aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, yohimbe. According to Consumer Reports, these "dirty dozen" supplements have been proven beyond a doubt to be detrimental to your health. Kava kava (Piper methysticum) was included in that list, based on research that led to the banning of Kava in Europe in 2002 (see Escher et al 2001; Kraft et al 2001). The story quickly spread throughout American news networks, newspapers, and internet sites. Once again, our beloved beverage is in the cross hairs of regulators. Unfortunately, the same data that was used to ban Kava in Europe eight years ago was cited by Consumer Reports to support increased regulation of dietary supplements - including Kava.

The European Union's ban on Kava was lifted in 2008. In 2006, Germany led the way by lifting the Kava ban in its own country. Why? Because Kava is safe. Early reports of the relationship between Kava consumption and liver problems were based on samples that involved parts of the Kava plant not recommended for consumption by, well, anyone. The only part of Kava that is traditionally consumed in its home islands are the roots. Many tinctures and supplements sold in Europe prior to the Kava ban were amalgamations of leaves, stems, and roots. The leaves and stems (and pretty much any above-surface part of the plant) contain chemicals that may be toxic and lead to liver damage. The studies that led to the banning of Kava were biased towards doses of Kava that were incorrectly prepared and would never be imaginable in Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, Papau New Guinea, or any other island in the south Pacific.

Kava liver damage is a myth. Even those cases of liver damage cited on the CDC's website are purely circumstantial - there is no way to know that Kava was the variable for liver disease in the cases mentioned. Furthermore, these studies were sponsored by pharmaceutical companies that have a vested interest in giving Kava a bad name. After all, how could they possibly compete with a natural, safer alternative to their anti-anxiety medications? They can't. Now, with the help of Consumer Reports, pharmaceutical companies, and possibly even big alcohol, the war on Kava is resurfacing. What is so amazing about this second attack is that it is based on the same biased, completely bogus data that was used ten years ago.

A great resource for reading more about this issue is Erowid Kava Vault, which supplies links to many of the original statements and arguments made against Kava, and finally evidence that supports the position that Kava is safe.
(http://www.erowid.org/plants/kava/kava_health_liver.shtml)

For more on this issue, visit Kona Kava's "Kava Safety" link on their website. They have done a very good job defending Kava.
(http://www.konakavafarm.com/blog/?page_id=184)

REFERENCES

Escher M, Desmeules J, Giostra E, et al. Hepatitis associated with kava, a herbal remedy for anxiety. BMJ 2001;322:139.

Kraft M, Spahn TW, Menzel J, et al. Fulminant liver failure after administration of the herbal antidepressant kava-kava. Dtsch Med Wochenschr 2001;126:970--2.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nakamal at Home's Chief's Jungle Kava - Review by Kaiden Fox

Kavasseurs,

It's going to be a busy month here at Kavasseur. I'll be reviewing several varieties of Kava from Vanuatu Kava Store and Pacific Kava. I'll also be doing another review of Chief's Jungle Kava (the new batch). But before I do, here is Kaiden Fox's own review of Chief's Jungle Kava. I also put a link to a really great book I just finished reading at the end of this post - Kava: The Pacific Elixir by Lebot et al.

Krunk on, Douglas

Nakamal at Home's Chief's Jungle Kava - Review by Kaiden Fox

For Saint Patrick’s Day, I wanted to do something a little more Irish with my kava. Looking at my South Pacific map, I noticed the Madang Province, where Chief’s Jungle PNG kava originates from, is pretty much a straight shot from the island of New Ireland.

First, the taste… not bad. I noticed, when mixing up the bowl, it was very ginger smelling, with an undersmell of something I would say was anise or licorice. It actually smelled, and tasted, quite good. I drank it at room temperature. No stomach upset.

Being a perseverant researcher, I had noted the chemotype of this kava was quite different than the Borogo kava blends I normally drink. It was low in kavain by high in desmethoxyyangonin. Over the centuries, kava has been cultivated to be higher in kavain and lower in desmethoxyyangonin. Madang Short is a less cultivated variety, and in fact was originally classified not as piper methysticum but as piper wichmannii before Vince Labot demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were not enough morphological, chemical, cytological and genetic distinctions between the two “species.” Still, “Waeld Koniak” is a waeld variety of kava.

At first I thought, “tasty, it’s kava, but it’s nothing to write home about out.” I had experienced “powerful” effects mixing Shaman into White Sand kava, where the eyes see but do not care, and where the ears are content to “harem singsing blong kava.” I should note that I was sitting through most of this. When I did recline my body in bed, I suddenly felt much better. Posture plays a big role in helping this kava kick. I’d recommend a hammock chair, ideally. I didn’t really experience the music euphoria I normally do with kava. Eventually I did put on an audiobook, and that was better. This kava also had less of an appetite suppressant effect, but that could be just me becoming used to it.

The next morning I discovered it was, indeed, weekend-grade kava. I woke up very pleasant and peaceful. No grogginess, maybe a little clumsiness, but a definite feeling of well-being. I was keenly aware of the samsaric suffering of all sentient beings. At the same time, I felt ready to go. My fiancée called me near the point of tears. She had just wasted over 20 minutes on hold to find out the item that she ordered a fortnight ago, which the company she ordered from still shows as being in stock, is now out of stock. Being a high-quality but discontinued item, she doubted the two left at Amazon.com were still there. Normally, panic is contagious, but I was in my own bubble of happiness and was able to calmly hop on, find the item by visual description, confirm it was correct, and place an order.

After breakfast and a shower, the kava is starting to kick in again. I can feel a pleasant tingle and Led Zeppelin is bringing a mild music euphoria. It feels like I’ve just drunk a single shell of a good-but-not-krunking kava, like Fire Island.

As an experiment, I would like to see how long I would stay in bed if no one called and if I had no pressing concerns.

My overall bottom-line review here is that this is not the kava to be totally krunked-out on – that kava is Black Sand or White Sand made into super-kava with Shaman. While Nakamal@home markets Jungle Chief’s as nasty-tasting super-kava, it’s really a pleasant-tasting kava that has a comparatively mild but disproportionately long-lasting effect.

Taste: 8/10 shells
Effect: 7.5/10 shells
Aftereffect: 10/10 shells

Overall: 8.5 shells of ginger-licorice sleepytime goodness



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