The Kava Adventure
Last year Susan and I decided to go on a vacation about as far away as we could get without a U.S. Passport. This was because I had not renewed mine after it expired 2 years earlier and I hadn’t allowed enough time to get one before our departure date the week after Labor Day. We were going to try for Guam, a little island in the Pacific Ocean closer to Japan than Hawaii. That would have been cool, because I had lived there with my Air Force dependent family during the height of the Vietnam War, and wanted to revisit the boonies and beaches I’d camped and explored as a young man. But, it turned out to be more feasible to visit the big island of Hawaii instead, specifically the little region called “Kona”, world renown for volcano’s, loamy soil enriched with ancient lava and the perfect weather required for the cultivation of the rare and sought after Kona Coffee.
While there, Susan and I got close enough to smell and taste the acrid smoky air of an active volcano, attend as many Luau’s (Outdoor Hawaiian cookout parties) as we could stand and explore the winding jungle roads leading to some of the southernmost black sand beaches and points of the USA. We also were fortunate to climb the almost 14,000 ft (by Land Cruiser) to the top of Mauna Kea Summit one of the world’s best sites for astronomy, because of its high altitude and dry, clear environment. There were huge telescopes in round-turret structures, just like the “Mad-Scientist Laboratories” from the movies. Susan and I took turns looking at planets and celestial bodies through a powerful telescope in the clearest, darkest skies imaginable, with thick parka’s zipped up and keeping us from freezing that high in the mountains. Wow, we truly are a tiny speck in an infinite universe.
Back down in the town of Kona later that night, we noticed that the bars and restaurants were dead. Nothing seemed to be going on in the center of town on a Saturday night, except… there was this little outdoor café where people, white & brown, young and old were congregated. These folks were laughing loud, talking with each other and eating snacks on this deck with benches surrounding a hut with a pass-through bar. There was this dude with long blonde dreds, with tattoos and a dark tan mixing a big bowl of what looked to me like muddy water, and several people were gathered around chatting with him and each other, apparently waiting for what was in that big bowl he was now stirring. Others were sitting around on the benches and picnic tables drinking from coconut shells and looking perfectly content, a look that was decidedly foreign to us city dwellers immersed in the
heady pace of our daily lives.
Well, curiosity got the best of Susan and I, so we asked, like the visitors we were, “what givith, ye man wearing time-hardened hair and doing the unsavory looking swill, swirling southward in thy makeshift bowl and filling the brims of those with coconut pods?” That’s Hawaiian, and it means “hi handsome, may we please try some of your freshly made Kava?” We had happened upon the Kona Nakamal (Kava Bar) by following only our curiosity and the energy and convivial vibes of the Islanders who were stopping by for their evening relaxation, socializing and drinking of the beverage produced from the venerable Kava Kava root. We immediately decided to try some and ordered two coconut shells half-filled with the murky beverage. Ours was an opaque tan color with a pungent taste. It began to produce a slight numbing sensation on our tongue and lips almost immediately. We became mildly chatty and sociable in 5-10 minutes of our first drink, noticing calmness, clear thinking, relaxed muscles and even a sense of well-being.
We enjoyed it so much that we brought some home with us, however preparing Kava Kava has been a learning process, with Susan first mastering it’s intricacies and then passing the technique on to me. It took us more than 6 months to introduce Kava to our patrons at Sawgrass Tiki Bar and we now see by our customers appreciation, that it was well worth the effort. We now researched different kinds of kava kava from Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu. And found that the Vanuatu Kava is the most potent. We make several kinds of Kava fresh daily at the Tiki Bar and always find new customers to add to our growing group of regulars who together are creating our own “Nakamal”, or Place of Peace.
For a more in-depth look at the history and Pharmacology of Kava, see the following article here on the “Kava Bar” part of our website