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


  1. Thank you for the taste-off! You hit the nail on the head. VKS' Quick Kava Premium has been my favorite, so I was curious as to how a "kavasseur" would compare it to his favorite - the N@H Shaman. I wonder if you could indulge me a second time, and perhaps explore the actual process of making instant kava? As I understand, the growers of kava root go through the process of scraping, cleaning, grinding, (or chewing) and then straining the juice before it is somehow dried and packaged. Does this mean I am drinking some islander's spittle every time I mix up my Quick Kava? Not that that would stop me from enjoying my favorite relaxing beverage...

  2. You'd have to ask the vendors. I don't think they make instant Kava from juice that has been masticated - it would be pretty surprising if they did. Chances are it is made fresh at its origin and then dehydrated. I really like the VKS Quick Kava for its flavor.. it is delightful.

  3. I just ordered a kilo. I'm almost out of Fire Island and completely ran out of Shaman last night.

  4. I'll do my own test between VKS Quick Kava and any remaining Fire Island, if I have it. Because Shaman is 100% lateral and has a color, taste and effect that can only synesthetically be described as "grey," it would be an unfair comparison/

  5. Damn, a kilo! That's quite an investment.

  6. not really, just got one myself...

  7. Let me explain my lifestyle a bit more. I work 10 hour days to have a three-day weekend. I spend my weekends almost every weekend a few hundred miles away from my place of work and the apartment I keep during the week. I sometimes but not always make fresh or makas kava and take it in a thermos to my fiancée's house, but it almost never lasts the whole weekend. I usually wind up drinking instant Kava because it is not only fast, but more importantly mess free. This allows me to spend more time with my fiancée while keeping her kitchen free of Kava mud.

  8. Wow, customs really fucked up the bag. I hope I didn't loose too much powder. I understand it's their job to root through my narcotics to make sure I'm not smuggling in any narcotics in my root.