Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mellow Mellow - Bula Kava House's "Melo Melo"

I typically work about 80 hours a week. I am an agricultural development facilitator in the Ethiopian highlands, where I have access to very few distractions from my job or the seriousness of my mission. On a day to day basis I have to perform a job that addresses hunger and food security. If you want to learn more about my work, check out the website of the organization I work for. So yeah, it gets stressful. But we all know that it is very important to mellow out every now and then. So, on a particularly stressful afternoon this week I decided to reach for a kava that seemed to fit the occasion – Bula Kava House’s “Melo Melo.” The name alone implies an anxiolytic product (look it up!), and its powdery grind with some lateral chips mixed in looks quite appetizing.   

Now let me be perfectly honest when I say that this is one of the best kavas I have ever had. Is it strong? Yes. Does it give you an amazing body-buzzing blow? Absolutely. But it really – and I mean really – mellows you out. I kind of picture the effect of this kava on me as being like a stiff board that steadily crumbles into a pile of dust. Or perhaps a candle slowly melting until the fire burns out and the fame rests into the wax. It is a combination of that Tongan stoniness, that Solomon euphoria (I felt this with Fu’u as well), and some of the minor excitability of a good light Vanuatu variety. When I say excitability, I mean it in a perfectly social sense. I drank four shells of this and danced around my compound listening to some Sierra Leonean music and enjoying the scent of some good incense. My co-workers were wondering what could have possibly gotten into me. “Some Melo Melo,” was my response.

Melo Melo is a light kava with a wonderful flavor and immediate impact. I brewed two batches of it in one night so as not to let the feeling drift off. With most kavas, I limit myself to two big pots. But with Melo Melo, I really wanted to keep the feeling alive. And that’s not because it is short-lived or wears off at an annoying rate (and there are definitely some kavas that do that), but because it just gets nicer and nicer as you let shell after shell fly down the hatch. I can say that I actually got legitimately krunked for the first time in quite some time on Melo Melo, but was still focused and sharp enough to be able to retire with a good book. I woke up the next day with a spring in my step and the clear intention of brewing up another batch that day.

This kava gives you a great body high, a focused head buzz, and an absolutely stunning sense of stress relief. I know this because I drank it on a particularly stressful day (ever had to put together a three-year budget for a poverty alleviation program? Believe me, it’s not a mellow affair). After my second shell (I actually drank it from a glass, because poor Kavasseur doesn’t have a shell out here in East Africa) I was completely relaxed, conversational, and had my mind completely off things.

In sum, this is a great buy. I’d love to keep a couple kilos on hand at all times…

Flavor - 9.5/10
Effects (Mind) - 9.5/10
Effects (Body) - 9.5/10
Strength - Strong, Medium-lasting

Melo Melo 9.5/10

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fu'u: Casual Euphoria

When I first gathered my kava making materials together – a sieve, a big stainless-steel bowl, and a scattering of half-coconut shells – I glanced suspiciously at the bag of glorious root that I had received from Bula Kava House (BKH) a few days before. It was full of the most finely-milled kava I had ever set my eyes upon. In fact, the grind was so fine that I decided to put it off one more night before consulting with BKH’s manager. I was afraid that I was about to brew up a gallon of instant kava, and I had three kava newbies that I was kneading for. I thought it was a risky idea to accidentally brew them a Kava purely composed of instant kava! In the meantime, I decided to have a go with Melo Melo (that’s a story for another day) and my co-workers and I drifted off into a Phish session while we slowly melted into the night.[1]

What I essentially asked BKH was: “are you sure you didn’t put the wrong kava in the wrong bag? Because I’m pretty sure you accidentally sent me a half kilo of instant kava.” This wouldn’t have been a horrible thing. Imagine a half kilo of instant kava! You could get krunked every day for a few months. But fortunately (or unfortunately) this wasn’t the case. It indeed was Fu’u. I wasn’t entirely convinced this was the case, but I decided to reassemble my kava chef station once again and get to work on this dusty, fine-scented powder.
Fu’u is, as I have said, very finely ground. It has very mild notes in powder form and, at least in an olfactory sense, is very enticing compared to some of the more pungent stuff out there. It resembles a combination of Fijian, Tongan, and perhaps even Solomon Islands kava. It is actually a “Noble” Tongan variety, meaning that it is reserved for Tongan nobility (of which there are still many, as Tonga is one of the world’s last monarchies). As Fu’u is already so well-ground, kneading it is quite a simple and relaxing exercise. (As if any dimension of the holy root experience needed to be any more relaxing!) It is surprisingly different from the Tongan varieties provided by some of the other Kava vendors out there, such as Nakamal at Home’s Tongan or Kava by Rex’s “Tongan Pride” (probably my least favorite Tongan variety available on-line.

Now, we all know that I absolutely love Nakamal at Home’s “Solomon Kava.” It tastes good, feels amazing, is easy to make, and even looks good. So let’s start with the taste of Fu’u. It is one of the most delightful kavas I have ever tasted. It has a full flavor, a milky-almond base, a coconut-milk-like texture, and it lingers on for a while after a generous swallow. Its numbing effects are medium-range, and that always throws me off (but this is a personal obsession of mine – that overwhelming tingling that a Papua New Guinean kava will produce is like a swim in a shimmering pool at the frothy base of a tropical waterfall for me). So yes, Fu’u tastes lovely and is brilliantly easy to drink. Even kava newcomers will likely find themselves in agreement with this. Or at least they will not make some asinine comment about kava tasting like murky pond water that has been infused with pine needle tea.

If I had to sum up the feeling of Fu’u, I would use one word: Euphoric. One could say the same of Solomon Islands kava (perhaps this is some kind of secret Tongan-Solomon hybrid?) or some of the other Tongan kavas out there. But Fu’u leans closer to the Solomon Islands camp. It inspires heavy eyelids (not to be mistaken with tiredness) and creative, laugh-inducing conversations. My co-workers and I had a bizarre session of grabbing books and reading random paragraphs out-of-context. It started out as a way of judging different writers’ abilities via randomly sampled snippets of their books (stick with me here) but then devolved into a kind of free-for-all session of blissful weirdness and inspiration. I’m not saying here that this kava is disorienting or overwhelming. It is fundamentally relaxing with that extra edge of stony euphoria. This is where it diverges from Solomon kava and leans more towards its country of origin, Tonga, with all of its pleasurable, social, feel-good essence. Whereas Solomon kava would compel you to crawl off into some cave and ponder the nature of the universe, this kava will make you want to repeatedly call for another “bula!” and laugh the night away.

Flavor - 9/10
Effects (Mind) - 8.5/10
Effects (Body) - 7.5/10
Strength - Medium Medium-Lasting

Fu'u 8.3/10

[1] My co-workers and I all live together in a compound in the Ethiopian highlands, in case you were wondering why I was hanging out with my co-workers.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

New Reviews Coming Shortly!

Hey Kavasseurs!

I am excited to announce that I have been invited to review the range of kavas that Bula Kava House has to offer at their online store. These reviews will be coming up sporadically over the next couple months, as I receive the samples. Keep checking this page for updates.

Greetings from Ethiopia!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Preview of Paradise Kava's Ground-Breaking 5th Generation C02 Extracts.

In the village where I live in southern Ethiopia, people like to wind down the day by visiting a T’ejj Bet (Honey Wine House) on the way home. The drink is the color of orange juice but tastes like lightly fermented beer thickened and accented by the universally-loved flavor of honey. Last week, I brought along a jar of Paradise Kava’s “Honey Lemon” Kava extract to the honey bar to enhance my experience. I was meeting my friend Talowen there for a couple bottles of honey wine and wanted to see what his reaction to Paradise Kava’s newest creation would be. After some hesitancy and persuasion he decided to give it a shot. He was the first person I’ve ever seen “get” Kava the first time.  His whole face lit up and he started expressing how amazing his mouth and throat felt. Two pea-sized drops later he was commenting on how supremely relaxed he felt. I, too, had taken a few generous globs of Paradise Kava’s 5th Generation Extract but decided to hide the jar away lest curious onlookers try to scrape into my stash. I don’t know much, but I do know that I am the first person to ever introduce Kava extract to someone in a honey bar in the highlands of southern Ethiopia. From the South Pacific to the Great Rift Valley – it doesn’t get any more international than that! It’s great that Kava is being presented in new and innovative ways and it is fairly obvious that Paradise Kava’s newest invention is the strongest, best-value product that Kavasseurs can hope for.

The newest incarnation of the Premium Kava extract series brings a whole new level of perfection to these miraculous elixirs. Paradise Kava’s latest extract innovation packs a whopping 150 mg of kava per gram, opposed to the much lower concentrations of 50 mg and 75 mg in the previous manifestations. The newest extract is creamier, balmier, and packs more of a mouth-numbing punch than its predecessors did.  It has strong medicinal undertones to it, which Adil has done his best to neutralize with stronger honey and lemon flavors. In the Coconut Vanilla flavor, the result is a perfectly-proportioned treat that tastes so much like delicious candy that you might find yourself too krunked too fast. The same goes for the Chocolate Orange. My preference is the Honey Lemon, which is easier to moderate and has enough of that bright Kava flavor that you know when you’re approaching a good place before you slab another glob of innovation onto your tongue. Hats off to Adil here for continuing to use unprocessed Hawaiian-grown honey and lemon, as well as organic chocolate, vanilla, orange, and coconut in the other two extracts. Paradise Kava’s commitment to excellence is there in every dose of the newest extracts.

Now, when can we expect new flavors? The Kavasseur is ever-excited to see where this goes next.