New Kava Business Ventures Launching in Fiji!

New Kava Business Ventures Launching in Fiji!Aloha, kava lovers! I am excited to bring news of three kava-centric business ventures that just launched in Fiji that are dedicated to expanding the market for Fijian kava worldwide! Fiji’s reputation for high-quality kava precedes it among the kava-loving community, where many find it to have a smoother, less biting flavor than Vanuatu kava while sacrificing none of kava’s pleasurable properties. However, surprising though it may be, few Fijian kava sellers have found a way to peddle their products directly to the international market, outside the few tourists who come upon Fiji’s local kava scene. Strict bans on kava, notably in the EU and Australia, have carved a divot into the profits local Fijians could have been making from kava, and have subjected many South Pacific countries to undue economic hardship from the early 2000s up to as recently as this year.

Luckily, those dark days seem to be receding ever faster behind us, dear readers! One of the omens of better days ahead for the kava market in Fiji is the recent announcement of three new Fijian business ventures centered around the production, branding, and international export of homegrown Fijian kava! Woohoo!

The first bit of news I want to share with you concerns a new Fiji company called South Pacific Elixirs Limited. Operating out of the region of Ovalau with a $130,000 grant from the Fijian government, South Pacific Elixirs will soon start producing a kava supplement beverage made from locally grown kava root. Officials hope that export of this new product will boost the economy of Ovalau, a highland region that relies on kava farming for a big portion of its GDP. Although the drink processing facility is currently located in Australia, the owners soon hope to establish a processing facility in Fiji. They cited this project as an opportunity to educate kava farmers about best growing and harvesting practices, and also to identity kava strains that are appropriate for export.

The beverage, called Taki Mai from a Fijian phrase meaning “serve me now”, combines an extract of pure freeze-dried kava root reconstituted with filtered water and either pineapple, mango, or guava juice. According to the site, its kava has a smooth, almost milky taste that blends well with water and lacks the bitter elements of, say, Vanuatu kavas. Furthermore, when you buy Taki Mai drinks, you’re getting a single-origin kava beverage: unlike many other bottled kava drinks, which are made from a blend of different kava strains, here you know you’re getting a pure Fijian kava straight from the small highland farmers of Ovalau, who directly profit from your purchase. Even cooler is that South Pacific Elixirs has partnered with the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, to develop standardized cold-water extraction and total kavalactone testing methods for their kava supplements. As their FAQ section states, “the aim was to create a kava beverage that used traditional, authentic ways to deliver a consistent and predictable relaxation effect with every serving.” That makes me want to go out and order some right now!

Next we have David Gilmour—the entrepeneur who founded the Fiji Water company and also runs the Wakaya Club and Spa—jumping on the kava business bandwagon with a new locally grown Fiji kava he plans to export to the world market. Gilmour is already the proprietor of organic pink ginger and turmeric farmed from the Wakaya highlands; this new kava product looks set to be the third in his trifecta of organic Wakaya Origins herbal supplements, and will be locally sourced from several regions of Fiji and processed at Wakaya to remove stems, leaves, and root peel. Wakaya Origins kava supplements were originally sold only in Fijian cities, but are slated to be available on the world market this month.

Finally, a brief piece from the Fiji Times Online caught my eye with news that kava growers in the region of Kadavu, Fiji, are making plans in concert with the Kadavu Provincial Council to brand and sell Kadavu kava abroad! According to Provincial Council Chairman Ratu Seci, kava (yaquona in Fijian) is a prime source of GDP in Kadavu, along with taro. Though he did not name names, the chairman also mentioned that a few international kava vendors are in the habit of labeling their kava “Kadavu kava” when it is not actually from Kadavu. Tsk tsk! Then, I suppose that goes to show just what a reputation Kadavu kava has in Fiji, and that reputation is soon to expand to the global stage once Kadavu starts exporting its excellent kava. I wish good luck to all three Fijian kava business ventures, and look forward to sampling their kava in the near future!

Mahalo,

Kava Guru

REFERENCES

“Kava Supplement Boosts Local Economy”. Fiji Times Online. http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=275729.

Valemei, Ropate. “New Kava Product”. Fiji Times Online. http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=277824.

Naleba, Mere. “Council to Concentrate on Product Branding”. Fiji Times Online. http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=284711.

Kava entering political circles?!

kava bar austinIs the freedom of a kava-drinking lifestyle working its way into political circles? Perhaps! Former First Minister Rhodri Morgan has recently had an encounter with his first kava bar and he seems to have thoroughly enjoyed it and recommends that all should try kava.

Morgan served as MP of Cardiff West since 1987 and has since become AM for the same constituency. He later became the leader of Welsh Labor, as well as the First Minister in 2000 – having held that position until 2009. Morgan is now a columnist for the Western Mail where he writes about his life, politics, and everything in between – even kava!

He was visiting Austin, Texas during October to visit plants involved in the shale boom industries and developments as well as the Department of Aging and Disability – these seem to be uncorrelated adventures,  perhaps just interest based? Either way, he states that there is a shale gas and oil boom that has several graduates in the industry set up for good jobs when they’re out of school. And another seemingly unrelated positive for Austin is that it doesn’t have the “Welsh Problem” according to Morgan, meaning that the state doesn’t have an overly high populous of elderly folk. The connection? Maybe Austin is the place to go for young ambitious students? I’m not too sure to be honest.

But, one other positive for Austin — and youth in Austin – is its kava-loving culture! As Morgan mentions, there is a kava bar in Austin that likes to keep tradition rich, complete with “Kavaristas” and all! The only kava bar that I know of in Austin is SquareRüt Kava bar, a kava bar that has culturally active owners who just opened up a second location in Austin.   Unless there’s another bar that I’m unaware of, then I am fairly certain SquareRüt is the kava-loving business that Morgan is referring to. We’re certainly glad to see that they’re doing so well and successfully spreading the joy of kava!

While there seems to be a bit of misinformation regarding kava within Morgan’s article – he nonetheless sheds a positive light on the kava-drinking community of Austin, Texas. He recommends that his readers “go for the kava!” and “pretend you’re celebrating a wedding in Fiji!” Reportedly that’s just exactly how he went about his kava-drinking experience and it seems to have been a worthy experience.

The misinformation lays within one brief statement he makes at the beginning of his article, stating that a kava bar experience could only happen in Texas – and yet kava bars can be found all over the United States and in other parts of the world too!  So, don’t you worry Morgan and Morgan’s readers – the love of kava is to be found in many states, not just Texas. However, he does mention that there will be a kava bar opening in St. David’s Centre in the middle of Cardiff, so perhaps he didn’t mean the statement about “only in Austin” all that literally – but either way, I just wanted to clear up that point and make sure all are well aware that kava can be had far and wide.

Oy! I certainly hope Mr. Morgan is correct about the kava bar opening in Cardiff – another kava bar in the UK is certainly a move in the right direction. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the official media launch and will let you, my dear readers, know just as soon as I know if and when this fun rumor is true! Let the joy of kava continue to spread and the bars continue to multiply!

Source: 

Morgan, Rhodri.  Wales Online, Oct 31, 2014: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/news-opinion/rhodri-morgan-the-shale-boom-8030557