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.