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!
“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.