A Typical Kava Bar Experience

Relatively new in the United States is the Kava bar; rising to popularity only in the last 3 years. A Kava bar is an establishment, such as cafe or lounge, that serves a drink known as Kava. Kava may be new to the States, but the origins of this ancient ceremonial drink can be traced back as far as 3,000 years ago.

Origins of Kava

Kava is a plant that grows in the Pacific island region and consumed by the native island cultures of Fiji, Vanuatu, Hawaii, and French Polynesia.  They make the drink from the root of the Kava plant.

The native island cultures typically prepared the root by chopping it into bite size pieces, chewing on them and spitting them out into a bowl filled with coconut water. They believed the enzymes in their saliva helped to extract the active ingredient in Kava.

They would then strain the concoction through coconut fibers and transferred to a new bowl for consumption. In ceremonial settings, the bowl is passed around. In casual settings, the Kava drink is dished out into traditional wooden cups, like these.

Traditional Kava Bar Cups

To this day there are tribes who still prepare Kava with this traditional method. Modern Kava bars use a ground powder to prepare their Kava. Thankfully, there is no chewing or spitting involved. More on this later.

The Kava Bar

 Kava Bar

Surprisingly, online advertising was the only way to know that you could get Kava from this cafe. The menu didn’t mention Kava, from what I could see. After requesting a shot of Kava the barista went over to a plastic tub, already sitting out on the counter, and scooped up a hefty ladle full of a murky brown drink.

I paid and then asked the barista how they made the Kava drink. He didn’t know and pointed to a man sitting alone outside. “That’s the owner, you can ask him.”

The owner explained that they get their Kava from the pacific island nation of Vanuatu. The roots must be 5 years old before harvesting. The locals dry the roots and ground them into a powder. They then export the powder around the world for consumption.

To make the Kave drink they mix water with raw Kava powder through various methods. Don’t be surprised if your drink has sediment or floating pieces of root in it since it is typically unfiltered.

I stuck my nose into the cup and took a big whiff. It reminded me of the smell of fresh cut grass.  I prepared for the worse and took a sip. My experiences with taking Kratom made me somewhat immune to poorly tasting substances. I expected much worse judging by the smell.

The taste was very strong, comparable to a shot of raw ginger. After a few sips, the bitter taste made my mouth tingle. It felt like I had just left the dentist office after a shot of Novocaine.

Effects of Drinking Kava

Kava Bar Drink

For $5 they gave me a “shot” of about 5-6oz of the concoction. I drank it on an empty stomach with a small muffin. After about 30 minutes I felt an overall sense of letting go. A general calming effect—definitely different than the feeling I’d get on Adderall or Modafinil. The strength of the overall effect was mild. I would by no means characterize it as mind altering. Which I can appreciate.

After an hour I decided to drive home. I noticed that the music sounded quite nice once I got in my car. On top of that, it was a beautiful day out. Light breeze, 75 degrees, and partly cloudy skies. My drive home is about 30 minutes. I sunk into the seat and cranked up the music. The drive home from the Kava bar was an enjoyable experience, to say the least.

Double Dose Next Time

In the future, I would like to try a double shot of the drink. Although the effects of the Kava were noticeable I think that doubling the dosage would produce an even better result.  From what I gather this is not a one and done type drink. Rather a substance that builds over time.

When I talked to the owner he said he was on his fifth cup of the day. It was barely past 1 pm at that point. If you plan on going to a Kava bar I would recommend setting aside a few hours to relax. Have a few cups of Kava and enjoy the rest of your day. I did not feel more motivated or focused after taking Kava. However, I could see myself having a few cups of it before going out on a date.

Kava has a sedative effect, making it ideal for relaxation. In addition to being sedative Kava also has anesthetic and euphoric effects to it. I would agree with this assessment. On this day I was slightly hungover with a mild headache. On my ride home the headache disappeared. Combine this with the anti-anxiety properties and I can see why natives were so fond of this drink.

Claims of Kava to treat cancer and other autoimmune diseases are not uncommon. This majestic plant seems to hold some amazing healing potential. Unfortunately, at this time there is little clinical research to support these claims.

Possible Downside of Kava

Kava is not without its drawbacks. Determined to be the main cause of liver failure in several studies and even cases leading to death. Heavy daily use of Kava has also been linked to a condition called “kava dermopathy”. Kava dermopathy reportedly causes dry and scaley skin on the hands and feet.

From what I’ve researched, Kava does not seem suitable for daily use. A weekly “cleansing” seems more appropriate.

Drinking Kava for the first time was a unique experience. I would encourage others to try it. Search your local area for “Kava Bar” and check it out. In addition to an enjoyable experience, you might also meet some like minded people.

Till next time,


P.S. You can purchase Kava powder to make at home here.