Welcome to the 2016 Kava Awards. I'm your host, the Kavasseur.
What a year for Kava! Not only did we see some of the best Kava ever slide through our doors' mail slots, but we also never needed it more. During presidential debates, international uncertainties, turbulent tensions, and certainly election nights we were able to soothe our bumblin' tumblin' minds with shells of our favorite Pacific elixir. As a community, we have come along way.
In 2016, Noble became the standard in the Kava world. The Kava marketplace in North America has never been cleaner. When you go online to buy Kava now, it is all but certain that you will get a 100% Noble Kava. The community has demanded higher standards from vendors, and we have been rewarded with clean burning Kavas that settle us down to sleep and let us wake up refreshed. Special thanks to those who have advocated for a marketplace where Noble is the norm.
We also saw some vendors retire from the Kava business. It became official in 2016 that Paradise Kava was no longer going to be selling rare delicious Kavas or their wonderful extracts. We also saw a smaller vendor, Luna Kava, hang up their shells for at least a temporary basis. Best of luck to these individuals in their future efforts - Kava related or not.
2016 was also a tough year for many of the Pacific Island nations who are part of our Kava community. Without them, we would not exist. Cyclones, floods, and even droughts ravaged the Pacific last year, causing terrible destruction in the countries where Kava is grown. This extreme weather reminds us that we need to be conscious of the global environment and be better stewards of it, and to extend humanitarian aid to those suffering as a result of the excesses of others. We stand in solidarity with the Kava farmers of the south Pacific, their families, their communities, and their nations.
When putting together this list, I wanted to be as unbiased as possible and keep the categories to a minimum. In a year, what qualities can we identify among vendors and their Kava? I thought it would be important to look for an outstanding individual who embodies good business ethics and sells high quality Kavas - the Vendor of the Year. Who was the best new arrival on the Kava scene over the past 12 months - the Best New Vendor. Who continued to push Kava forward with new ideas and technologies - the Most Innovative. Which small Kava vendor brought the local flavors of the South Pacific to us so successfully that you could almost taste the soil of their Kava gardens in each shell of Kava - the Best Artisanal Vendor. Which vendor keeps their fans on the edge of their seats waiting for fresh, tasty new Kavas and maintains their fan base - the Sheller's Choice. And, of course, the Kava of the Year category speaks for itself. There are so many great vendors out there now, but I thought these were really the ones who stood out in 2016.
With no further ado, I'd like to raise some shells and distribute awards to various players in the Kava world.
Vendor of the Year - Kalm with Kava
I want to raise a special shell to 2016's "Vendor of the Year." Kalm with Kava exemplifies excellent business ethics and community-based economic development through sustainable agriculture. What truly impresses me about Kalm with Kava is their emphasis on the farmers and communities who grow Kava in the Pacific Islands. Their focus on creating a better life for Kava-producing communities by going to their homes, walking with them through their farms, and sourcing the freshest, most cared-for, and best value Kava on the market is what earns them the title of "Vendor of the Year." They are doing what I believe every responsible company should do in a market that works with natural resources and agricultural products. Namely, they bypass the middleman distributors and buy directly from farmers. Their approach might be more difficult and expensive, but it means that when you purchase a bag of their Kava your money is going directly to the households who produced it. Essentially, it means that when you drink a shell of Vula Waka you are not only benefitting yourself, but you are benefitting a household in Fiji. What more could you ask for?
Excellent work, Mike Munsell and everyone at Kalm with Kava!
Best New Vendor - Kava Time
When Kava Time first came on to the scene several months ago, they seemed like a small Kava vendor who may or may not be able to get on the radar. Now, at the end of 2016, they are offering around half a dozen Kavas that are all consistently amazing. Their Savusavu Waka is the dreamy answer to many problems. The Lawena is a nerve-calming tonic that will never let you down. Having only been around for a handful of months, Kava Time has impressed as a Fiji-based small Kava vendor that takes Noble Kava seriously. Also, their Kava "bricks" were one of the most commonly talked about novelties in the Kava world. Those things are packed so tightly that you need an ice pick just to get a session going!
Most Innovative Vendor – Kavafied
What can I say? The AluBall continues to take the Kava world by storm (the good kind). I remember the early days of the AluBall, when it seemed a bit gimmicky and out of place. Well, now it is even the Kavasseur norm for Kava-making. It is quick (as in minutes), effective, portable, easy to clean - you name it. I have taken this thing with me to Ghana, Madagascar, Rwanda, and South Africa. It always does the trick. Kavafied continues to innovate with a cutting-edge online presence (have you seen their Instagram?), a great line of hats and t-shirts, amazing design, and even the upcoming AluBall XL. They also surprised us late in the year by dropping "Vanuatu Supreme" on us. It's one of the better Vanuatu Kavas available right now, and we're all lovin' it.
Best Artisanal Vendor - The Kava Roots
The Kava Roots released two main Kavas in 2016 - Tongan Reserve and Vanuatu Select. Both of these were of exceptional quality and had the finest, Noblest, cleanest flavors and effects. The Kava Roots burst on to the scene with the sedating, relaxing, anxiety-busting Tongan Reserve. In October they released Vanuatu Select, which became the reigning heavyweight champion of the Vanuatu Kava world - no small victory for any vendor, let alone a small artisanal vendor. The "localness" of their Kava and the small batch quality is what puts this vendor firmly at the top of the list of smaller, artisanal vendors.
Kava of the Year - The Kava Roots' "Vanuatu Select"
When I drank my first shell of "Vanuatu Select," it transported me back to my first brush with Kava as a stressed-out college student in 2000. It reminded me of that initial feeling of first finding something that washed my nerves clean from any anxiety or discomfort. "Vanuatu Select" is hands-down my favorite Kava of 2016 - a strong peppery Vanuatu Kava that has that perfect balance of heady and heavy strength and burns clean in your relaxation engine. The organic flavor and household level care of this Kava can be tasted in every brilliant shell and it puts you firmly where you want to be on any day of the week. Three bulas to the Kava Roots!
Sheller's Choice - Gourmet Hawaiian Kava
Gourmet Hawaiian Kava continues to be the most popular and preferred vendor of the community of daily Kava drinkers who search for a variety of Noble Kavas with a guaranteed quality and type. They have a dedicated group of loyal followers who admire the effort Gourmet Hawaiian Kava puts into understanding and preserving a large heirloom of Kava varieties. They locally run a large Kava farm in Hawaii that is teeming with seemingly endless varieties of high quality Kavas with different effects. Having direct control over the nurturing of these plants, Gourmet Hawaiian Kava can guarantee the quality and genetic cultivar type of every bag of Kava they send out. Their adherence to the Noble-only movement is admirable, and they have become a major force in the Kava world.