Monday, October 1, 2012

Paradise Kava's Fijian Kava (2012)

As you likely know by now, there are many different kinds of Kavas. Heavy and woozy Kavas, light and uplifting Kavas, hypnotic and transcendental Kavas, and Kavas that just give you the right feeling to get through a difficult situation. Of course, different Kava drinkers are going to prefer different kinds of Kava. Some people reach straight for a Papua New Guinean Isa or a bag of Nakamal at Home’s Wow! and sputter off into a different world for a couple of days. Others seek out Kava from the Solomon Islands – a root that is essentially psychedelic in its effects. But I have always preferred the steady hitters; the mid-strength Kavas that you can drink from the early evening until late at night. These brews look like bleached coral and have a smooth, creamy taste that matches perfectly with their sedative effects.

Paradise Kava’s latest Fijian batch is interesting because it doesn’t have that white hue to it, but rather a typically light brown color for Kava. But when you brew it (or even just give it a whiff) you get that familiar Fijian scent and flavor. It has a creamy and cashew-like flavor that makes you think twice about having to treat each shell like its some kind of pure grain alcohol. When I brewed this Kava for the first time I found myself sipping my coconut shell like it was full of rare Irish whiskey or cognac. In other words: this is a great Kava to have around for people who get squeamish about the scents and rooty notes of most Kavas. Of course, it doesn’t taste like vanilla ice cream or garlic-drenched lobster – but in the Kava world it is one of the better flavors I have come across.

This is probably the only Kava that I have ever had that launches you off immediately, brings you to a comfortable place, and then creeps up again and drives you through the night. In some ways, it is way more powerful than most Kavas – 5 hours later! If I had to describe it in a nutshell, I would say that this root sends you to space, turns you into a socialite, and then winds down like you’ve just taken 50 mg of valium. The two times I brewed this batch up I sat around a table from 4 P.M until around 11 P.M telling stories about random adventures I’ve had in Africa. It is perfect for mellow-minded ice-breaking and removing the static between you and those you are talking with. An uplifting, light, and delicious social Kava.

One very interesting thing: Kava dreams. I have never had a Kava that gave me such deep, vivid, and compelling dreams. I think this might be slightly connected to its creeping qualities – I woke up from a dream feeling krunked and then drifted back into that technicolor world of psychological manifestations. Even as I type this, the morning after I brewed up 3 litres (5 tablespoons total) and shared amongst friends last night, I still feel a bit krunked. But I don’t feel like I’m coming down off a mind-warping Isa flight. I feel like I’m being gently delivered back into a more gentle world. But the dreams! If you are into the more spiritual qualities of Kava, this might be the one that you buy stock in (literally).

Bula! A new Fijian strain is here…

Flavor – 9.75/10
Effects (Mind) – 10/10
Effects (Body) – 7.5/10
Medium Strength-Long Lasting

Paradise Kava's Fiji Kava (2012) - 9.1/10

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paradise Kava - Third Generation CO2 Extracts

Honestly, I didn’t think it was possible for Paradise Kava to improve on what appeared to be the pinnacle of Kava powder or fresh root alternatives – their original batch of solvent free cO2 extracts. As a result, it puts the Kavasseur into a deep bind because I ranked their original extract a perfect 10 out of 10. I am going to be forced to do the same thing here, but let’s just assume that I ranked the last batch 9.59/10. This new batch is almost unexplainable. The first batch was a revelation to the Kava world as to what creative thinking could do to an already awesome medicine (and alternative way of “winding down”) and the second batch was equally innovative.

But this new third generation Paradise Kava extract gives a whole new meaning to the word “perfection.” In fact, after allowing two globs of the “Chocolate Orange” extract to melt seamlessly into the bottom of my mouth I literally feel like I am pawing at the keyboard like a stoned cat. Each dose of this stuff has a whopping 120 mg of pure full spectrum kavalactones, lecithin, citrus oils, natural chocolate, and coconut oil (the Honey Lemon has Hawaiian honey and citric acid in place of the chocolate).  Paradise Kava has perfected the homogenization technique and added just the right amount of lecithin for the Kava to absorb into your body and mind. This is the purest, most potent, and most innovative extract on the market. Having the pleasure to review it, I am unsure of whether my current state of bliss will see me through this, because its mind (and body)  strength make me feel like I have dived into some immaculate reef and emerged from the water completely baptized of my pains and worries with calm, heavy, and happy eyes. It is quite difficult to construct sentences in such a sublime state of mind.

The taste is far removed from its ancestor. It is much more smooth, silky, and sublime. The texture is smoothy and creamy yet complex and mutli-layered. The biggest difference between the 1st generation and 3rd generation can be found in the Honey Lemon Extract, which is far smoother and less sugary (at least to the taste) than the 1st generation. The flavor is stronger and a bit more medicinal in the new Honey Lemon extract, which in many ways is a good thing. I remember plowing through half a jar of Honey Lemon the first time around because it so unbelievably tasted like some kind of life-changing candy. The difference in the Chocolate Orange is less pronounced, yet equally significant and definitely an improvement.

Paradise Kava offers these extracts in three different-sized jars: a 10 gram size, a 30 gram standard size, and a 60 gram large jar.                                                                                                                                                   

Though I am overwhelmingly pleased with the Chocolate Orange and Honey Lemon extracts, I would love to see some more diversity in the flavors. I was thinking vanilla bean with shredded coconut or a mango salsa flavor (wouldn’t that be something?). Limited editions of the extract would also be fun – pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, anyone?

Paradise Kava – 3rd Generation Extracts 10/10

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ozia Originals’ Kava Kava Candy (Orange Flavor)

Looking for an easy-to-carry, unsuspicious, and relatively strong Kava extract? Looking for something that tastes good, doesn’t require any cumbersome kind of storage, and can be accessed at any given moment? Most importantly, are you looking for something that works fast and is easily accessible during those moments when you really need to calm down and feel relaxed? Look no further. KavaKava Candy exactly fits that description. If you are traveling and are worried about how to explain mouth-numbing powders or big bags of  "strange" ground Pacific roots or even a jar of Kava extract, then these candies are the ideal alternative.

The taste is delicious. It reminds me a lot of those 50/50 bars that they used to sell from Ice Cream trucks when I was a kid. When I first popped a KavaKava Candy into my mouth, my mind was flooded with memories of summer days eating those sweet orange popsicles that were full of delicious and quite complimentary ice cream on the inside. Combine that with the numbness of good Hawaiian Kava, subtract the coldness of a popsicle, and you have KavaKava Candy.  The deliciousness factor alone makes these a good way to enjoy a relaxing Kava session. If you have a box of these and a jar of Paradise Kava’s extract on hand, then you’ll be in good shape for any kind of situation.

The first KavaKava Candy I dissolved on my tongue brought on immediate numbness, and then a nice wave of stress relief. I had been traveling by bus all day in West Africa from the rural rainforests (where I live) to the choked, smog-laden capital city of Accra. I looked around at the chaos of urban West Africa, sighed, and then remembered “oh yeah, I have those KavaKava candies on me!” I had a meeting with an immigration officer for a visa extension which is always stressful – negotiating bribes, trying to be funny so that they don’t probe too much, and trying to flatter them about your experiences in their country. You don’t want to mention any of the inconveniences or let them know that you’re completely befuddled about your immigration status. So when I got off the bus and started walking to the immigration office, I popped a second KavaKava candy. This is when I felt the full effect of this product. I’d say it put me somewhere between one and two shells of a medium-strength Kava (think Black Sand by Nakamal at Home or Malekula Magic by Vanuatu Kava Store). It gives a nice lightness to your body and a warming, relaxed mental high. Since there are eight pieces in the package, that is not such a bad deal for $5.99 (the current price). Each tablet contains 50 mg of Kava Kava extract (including lemon balm and chamomile).

If I lived somewhere that had reliable postal service and didn't cost an arm and a leg to ship to (i.e., not the most inaccessible part of the world!), I would definitely buy ten or twenty packets of these candies. They are very delicious, moderately strong, extremely convenient, and definitely made from good quality piper methysticum roots.

I should mention that, if I was to rank Kava based on convenience and a “not rising of suspicions” factor, this would definitely get a 10 in that category.

Flavor – 10/10
Effect (Mind) – 7.5/10
Effect (Body) – 7.5/10
Strength – Medium
Overall – 8.3/10

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Paradise Kava - 100% Hawaiian Awa

***In honor of almost three years of Kavasseur, I wanted to re-post the review that has had the most hits (and is the highest-rated). Here is my review of Paradise Kava's 100 % Hawaiian Awa that I originally reviewed in December of 2010!

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nakamal at Home - White Sand Kava

Every now and then you have a Kava experience that just works perfectly - great tasting, immediate, mouth-numbing, and delicately potent. I always think of a good Fijian or Tongan strain when I think of overwhelmingly subtle, sublime, and delicious Kava experiences. Finally, I have had a Vanuatuan Kava that mirrors those characteristics - Nakamal at Home's "White Sand Kava."

This is the only Nakamal at Home Kava product that I hadn't yet tried. Well, I can almost say I saved the best for last. Strong like Stone or Chief's Jungle? No. Mild and quotidian (yes, I just used that word) like Tongan or Fijian? No. Somewhere right in between - just perfect? Yes.

First of all, this Kava tastes amazing. It has a very fresh, almost Tongan taste. I would almost venture to say that it has an "instant" Kava flavor like Shaman or Fire Island. But that wouldn't do it justice because it is fuller, heavier, and more substantial than an instant Kava could ever be. That being said, its greenish hue and fresh flavor give it an almost "fresh frozen Kava" kind of flavor. It has that round, cashew-like flavor characteristic of most good Kavas out there. It is a bit heavy on the palate - in a good way. Not bitter in any sense of the word, more like an unsalted peanut butter or a good-tasting clay (whatever that means, but this is Kava we are talking about!).

I mixed three heaping tablespoons with one liter of water and squeezed this Kava until all the oils had seeped out. Noticing that it was still a bit thin, I added one more tablespoon and continued to squeeze. Upon having the first shell, I noticed the immediate numbness and subsequent buzz. Ah, yes! Nakamal at Home is always reliable for selling strong Kavas - Kavas that will impress upon first impression (just used two variations of the same word within the same sentence!). White Sand Kava is - dare I say - the Bud Light of Kavas. You can drink and drink and drink and you'll just continue to feel better*.

Definitely a body buzz more than a head buzz, but that's okay. I'm a farmer now, and such a Kava hits the spot perfectly. Your muscles will collapse into a state of what can only be termed "regeneration." And even though this Kava isn't heady, it still allows you to leave your problems at the door and phase out the day with grace and gratitude.

Highly recommended, and this is the 33rd Kava I've tried!

Taste - 9/10
Effect (Mind) - 7.5/10
Effect (Body) - 9/10
Strength - Medium

Nakamal at Home's "White Sand Kava" - 8.5/10

*Apologies to any recovering alcoholics out there.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kavasseur on Twitter, Facebook, and Yuku!

To keep up-to-date on all Kavasseur happenings and to contribute to the conversation, join me on Twitter, Facebook, and Yuku. I am still reviewing and posting about Kava - even though I live in West Africa - and want the community to continue to grow. We all know that drinking Kava is a safe, enjoyable medicinal and recreational activity. Let's watch this community grow into a movement for a more stress-free world!

Create a Facebook account and apply to the group "The Kava Lounge" on Facebook. There, you can see whenever I update Kavasseur or post your thoughts on Kava.

Create a Yuku account and look up "The Kava Lounge" on Yuku:

Also, I have a Twitter account for Kavasseur. So look me up on Twitter! @kavasseur

My review of White Sand Kava from Nakamal at Home will be up this week. I'm looking forward to trying the only product of their's that I haven't tried.

Also, PLEASE click on an advertisement once in a blue moon so that I can continue to get my one-in-awhile $40 checks from Google. Support Kavasseur!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Paradise Kava - PNG Isa Kava

**One great thing about Paradise Kava is that all of their Piper Methysticum is grown on the big island of Hawaii. So, despite this being a Papua New Guinea strain, it is still big island grown. This explains why most of Paradise Kava's products are slightly more expensive than other Kava vendors. It is one thing to keep in mind when ordering from them - you are bound to get a fresher Kava that is a bit more expensive because of agricultural labor costs in the United States.

I didn't try PNG's Isa Kava until I arrived in Ghana after a grueling 36 hour trip. And then, I waited a day or two to acclimatize and wind down before brewing up a big bowl in the village where I farm cocoa, plantains, bananas, and taro. Combined with jet lag and the shock of working on the farm after being off of it for three weeks, this Kava bowled me over in a perhaps unexpected way. I probably should have chosen a Fijian or Hawaiian variety, but I wanted to give this a squeeze as it was fresh out of the pipeline.

When you open a bag of Paradise Kava, you are always greeted with a pungent whiff of very fresh Kava powder, and Isa can throw you off a bit because it is so immediately strong. Compared to their other powders, this is quite a heavy hitter in terms of strength and flavor. It is not comparable to the grassy, viscous Papua New Guinea varieties that vendors like Nakamal at Home or PNG Kava sell, but it is still piney and more terrestrial-scented.

The flavor of PNG's Isa is not like that of most of other PNG Kavas on the market (those sold by Nakamal at Home or PNG Kava, for example). It is noticeably less grassy, a bit nuttier, but is definitely still very strong. It does not go down smoothly like a Fijian, Tongan, or Hawaiian variety. Similarly, it has that almost overwhelming numbing effect that one would expect from a PNG Kava. In this sense, the taste is very satisfying in the "stony" department - you know you are swigging something that is going to knock your socks off. Like most PNG Kavas, I can't say I altogether enjoy drinking it from an aesthetic perspective. It is thick, acrid, and heavy. Like Nakamal at Home's Chief's Jungle Kava, this all makes sense when one considers the effects.

The effects of the PNG's Isa are imminent and overpowering. It is on the stronger side of strong. I would argue that it is perhaps a bit stronger than Nakamal at Home's "Chief's Jungle" but has a more pleasant strength that could be loosely compared to Nakamal at Home's "Stone" (though slightly stronger). My one apprehension about this particular Kava is that it has a pronounced "Tudei" effect. The day after I drank a few shells of this, I was still substantially krunked and even slightly nauseous. I don't particular enjoy that feeling, so I'd put this at the bottom of my Paradise Kava list (which is still a good thing, considering there amazing selection).

This is THE Kava for people who are looking for strong effects. It will krunk the senses out of you. But be careful, because you will feel it the next day!

Taste - 7/10
Effects (Mind) - 8/10
Effects (Body) - 8/10

Strength - Very Strong

Paradise Kava's Isa Kava - 7.6/10

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vanuatu Kava Store - Coconut Kava

It has been a long time since I had the pleasure of drinking Malekula Magic, one of the top 10 Kava's reviewed on this site (9.3/10 shells). Well, let me tell you a little secret: Coconut Kava is coconut juice-infused Malekula Magic.

Vanuatu Kava Store has always had some of the best-tasting Kavas, and they seem to do a very good job of keeping this one of their priorities. Bringing friends into the Kava circle can be a daunting task, especially when you are brewing up a grassy Papua New Guinea Kava or a peppery Kava from Vanuatu. Finding a pleasant-tasting Kava that is simultaneously strong can be difficult. A few come to mind - Paradise Kava's "Hawaiian Awa," Nakamal at Home's "Tongan," and of course Vanuatu Kava Store's "Malekula Magic." One thing these Kava's all have in common is that they bring on a mellow buzz. They are high in kavain and low in double-bonded kavalactones, so they give you a nice, sustained buzz without a "Tudei" hangover.

I was a bit surprised about the flavor of this Kava. I half expected it to have an overdone sicky-sweet coconut taste - like strawberry beer or grape Fanta. However, it has an altogether different taste that is thankfully quite subdued and quite delicious. If you have ever had fresh coconut juice, it does taste a bit like that. But to be more precise, it tastes like coconut juice mixed with a Kava and a subtle smoky undertone. The first hint that this is more-than-related-to Malekula Magic is in the flavor. The second hint is the white chocolate mocha look and texture of the Kava in the bowl. And as hard as it is to improve upon the flavor of Malekula Magic, the job is done here. Vanuatu Kava Store has added coconut juice to Malekula Magic, and the result is Coconut Kava.

As for the effects of Coconut Kava, it doesn't deviate too much from Malekula Magic, which is a good thing. A very mellow, earthy buzz that you can feel in your eyes. It allows you to sink deeply into your chair (or couch, or whatever) and let your anxieties and doubts flutter away. Each shell sinks you further into mellowness until the bowl is finished along with your woes. It's strength is in its stoniness, and it doesn't give you any of the perkiness that a Papua New Guinea Kava does, or hallucinogenic qualities that a Solomon Kava does. The effects on your joints and muscles is far weaker than the mellowness it brings to your mind. So if you are looking for something to address muscle pain, go elsewhere. But if you are looking for something to relieve stress at the end of the day? Look no further. You wake up the following morning feeling clean and fresh.

Taste - 9.5/10
Effect (Mind) - 9.75/10
Effect (Body) - 8/10

Strength - Medium

Vanuatu Kava Store's Coconut Kava - 9.1/10

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Honey Lemon Kava Extract from Paradise Kava

Briefly visiting the United States from Ghana, I was asked by several Kava vendors to review some of their new products. The first set of samples I received were from Paradise Kava - a new Honey Lemon extract, a bag of PNG Isa (to be reviewed in coming days), and some experimental salves and calming oils. I had a chance to talk to Adil Ghiasi from Paradise Kava on the phone. "I'm really proud of our new Kava extract Doug," he told me "this is the culmination of years of trying to perfect this stuff." It is remarkably different from Paradise Kava's previous Kava extracts, most notably in its flavor and appearance.

Pictured below are the previous extract (2011) on the left and the newest extract (2012) on the right:

I was surprised, particularly when comparing the two extracts side by side, at how much unlike the new extract is compared to its predecessor. In terms of texture, flavor, and effects the 2012 extract is so fundamentally different from the previous one that it almost seems like the concept is altogether different. And in some ways it is. The newest extract packs much more of a punch than its previous manifestation - for example, it produces a level of numbness that would be sufficient for having a root canal done. The effects are immediate (not that having to wait a minute or two is altogether intolerable) as the newer extract is designed for immediate absorption. On top of all that, it produces a much more prolonged, sustained buzz. According to Adil Ghiasi from Paradise Kava, there is a higher concentration of desirable kavalactones such as kavain and dihidrokavain in the 2012 batch. It is also processed using a new method that produces a denser, more integrated product with less granule. So it is tasty, smooth, and strong - but doesn't have double-bonded kavalactones (such as those found in "Tudei" Kavas) that you feel the next day.

In terms of flavor, I'm a little bit torn between the newest batch and the previous batch. I feel like they should both be offered. The 2011 extract is much sweeter than the newest manifestation, which is really quite strongly flavored and tastes more like Kava than the previous one did. In fact, it has a kind of spicy undertone that surprised me when I first tried it. I was so fond of the 2011 batch that I used to gobble it up like candy in the evening time when I was winding down. I don't picture myself doing that with something that deeply impacts me after a couple pea-sized doses. That is not to say, of course, that it doesn't taste good - it certainly does.

Paradise Kava's 2012 batch of extract is stronger than the 2011 batch, which means that you are getting more kavalactones per dose than before. Nonetheless, they have managed to keep the price down, making this a great deal. If you have a sweet tooth and a craving for strong Kava, this new extract is for you...