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...