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, 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 : 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