A glass of wine… or kava?

Rolling Stones magazine called it the “all natural high that’s sweeping America.” This South Pacific root is now being offered all over the US as an alternative to alcohol or drugs. Kava is a shrub grown in the Pacific islands and has commonly been used for social rituals, religious ceremonies, and for medical reasons. Typically the root and stump of the plant are ground down into a powder and made into a non-alcoholic beverage. Kava, also referred to as kava kava, alleviates stress and helps reduce anxiety.

Recently I was in Denver, Colorado trekking with a coworker. We were trekking for our global trends program, FlavourVision. Our focus was on Layered Wellness which touches on consumers taking care of their mind, body and spirit. One of our stops took us to a restaurant with beets painted all over the door and decked out with indoor plants and a sign on the counter that said: “gather here for kava slam.” As we walked inside the Corner Beet, we saw a list of their many kava offerings, something you don’t see that often. Their root kava, which is just an 8oz pour of fresh kava (prepared by cooking without using a ground powder), was complimented by turmeric, ginger, pepper, and cinnamon. They also offer other kava beverages that mask the bitter, earthy taste such as a chaiva (kava and chai latte), kava lemonade, and horchava. After talking with the server who educated us on kava kava, likening it to drinking a glass of wine to relax, we ordered the root kava and the tropikava.

As soon as we placed our order and sat down we both started asking each other, “is this legal and what are we getting ourselves into?” We started doing research and found that kava is legal in safe amounts and is part of the pepper family. When the server brought our drinks they were beautiful and topped with dried ginger, but immediately we both were hit with a strong earthy aroma. Our first sip tasted as though we were drinking dirt, but it was surprisingly smooth with no acid or sweetness. The kava itself was really overpowering, and we didn’t get the ginger and turmeric, but it did deliver on laughter and relaxation. Having to continue our trekking was an adventure, especially after reading that kava is not recommended to be mixed with alcohol.

As I returned to Ohio and started a “dry January”, I thought back to the kava I tried in Denver. How it gave me this giggly, laughing natural high and how I wanted a repeat experience. Thanks to The Corner Beet, my colleague and I can’t get over this great alternative to CBD, and right now CBD is everywhere and I mean EVERYWHERE. Kava could be a superb FDA-legal ingredient offering a similar sense of relaxation to customers and, through masking, could be very appealing to consumers. I, myself, am clearly a fan of this functional ingredient and hope to see more products using this in the market so I can stay completely “dry” in January!

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