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.