All Kavasseurs have a few friends who claim that Kava doesn’t effect them and that it lacks the power they look for in a good night of enhanced socializing. They sink back a few shells, comment on the cool numbing effect, and then wander over to the cooler for a cold beer.

Friend who doesn’t believe Kava is powerful, meet Chief’s Jungle Kava.

This is my first time drinking a Papua New Guinean Kava, and it won’t be my last. From the time you cut open the package and unlock the resealable bag, you are in for a real treat. This stuff is just different. The smell of pine cones and sage describe the nose of this root. If you just feel this stuff with your hands, you will be in love with it. It has this great twiggy, non-powdery density to it and just feels nice to play with. The scent of pine cones just emanates from this stuff and makes the whole house smell wonderful. I was enchanted with this Kava before it even touched water. And when it did… wow. Watching the roots absorb water, expand, and exude their spiciness was just ridiculous. I followed the provided recipe pretty closely, sans the blender, and kneaded for about 15 minutes before I had a good thick Kava to drink.

Now, the flavor. Well, what can I say? It is evil. Now I understand Kava anxiety. I took my first gulp and was totally overwhelmed. I feel like I should brew some Fiji or Tongan Kava as a chaser for this stuff. I wanted to spit it out like I would if I took a bite out of a fresh, green pine cone. It is really like no other Kava I have ever tasted, and I feel like I’m being redundant in saying that. I started out drinking Vanuatu Kavas and falling in love with them, and was extremely surprised at the wonderful flavor of Tongan and Fijian Kavas. I even enjoyed crashing through my kilo of Vanuatu Kava Store’s Pentecost Pride for its mild and satisfying flavor. Kona Kava is extremely nice, but isn’t very rewarding. I’ll tell you, Kavasseur to Kavasseur, that this stuff is not  pleasant to drink. It brings on the gag effect, but in the end it kind of makes sense. The only thing I might recommend is watering this down and drinking twice as much, because if you just drink it raw you are going to get pummeled. The ends justify the means. I don’t even know how to rate the flavor on this, so I won’t.

Chief’s Jungle Kava is extremely powerful. You feel it as you are drinking it, almost right out of the gates. It is pretty close to a Vanuatu Kava in that it has that kind “heightening” kick to it. You feel it in your head before you feel it in your muscles. Your eyes kind of glaze over as if you had just smoked some cannabis. You move slower, see deeper, and hear everything loud and clear. Lights are brilliant and somewhat offensive. Chief’s Jungle must have its roots in Vanuatu, because it has a nearly identical effect. From what I understand from looking at the literature, you can’t export super high-grade Kava from Vanuatu by law, so some of the most potent stuff you can drink stateside is from Papua New Guinea. (Can anyone confirm this?) After drinking three shells of this stuff, that seems like a more than likely scenario. In terms of effect, this is the one you want to brew for those friends of yours who have downplayed the power of Kava.

I need to lay down…

Flavor – 6.5/10 (high grassy notes dominate, too overpowering for my tastes.. try Niugini if you want a tasty Papau New Guinean Kava)
Effect – 9.75/10

Nakamal at Home Chief’s Jungle Kava  – 8.125 shells out of 10

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For some odd reason, I picture Kava (or Awa, as it is called in Hawaii) varieties growing weaker and weaker as they radiate away from Vanuatu. A great web of Kava with a muddy, spicy, numbing core on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. Tongan Kava represents a kind of alternative core in the Kava world, a place from whence a mysterious white Kava emerges that has peculiar qualities and is incredibly medicinal. Vanuatu Kava is thick and ritualistic, Tongan Kava is milky and utilitarian, Fiji Kava is stranded somewhere in between, and now Hawaiian Kava….

KONA KAVA Premium Powdered Kava Root (16oz)

Well, it’s pretty damn good. I should say that, like Tongan Kava, it has a completely different taste, texture, and effect. According to Kona Kava Farm, the Mahakea Kava Root has the “426 kavalactone/chemotype line up,” whatever that means. I used the Kona Kava Farm recipe, which included a small bag that came with the Kava. They recommend two tablespoons of Kava to half a quart of water. I felt like that was pretty low, but went for it anyway. The final product, after ten or so minutes of squeezing, was a Kava that had a more transparent color than others I have had, but had a more “agreeable” taste as well. This Kava would be beyond ideal for a beginner, because it has a very neutralized and mild taste. It has a bit of a spicy edge to it, but is more notable for the relatively big anesthetic effect it has. Compared to most Kavas, this one produces a fairly high amount of the lip and mouth numbing effect. In terms of flavor, it is really good and has a lot of complexity. For someone who has drank a lot of Kava, it would probably be passed off as too mild. But if you really swish it around and focus on the flavor, it actually does have a lot going for it. And again, this one would be good for those friends of yours who have pushed shells away in the past.

The effect is great as well. It is extremely relaxing. It doesn’t give you a great buzz, but it does offer a good route for winding down. I drank three shells and the minor headache I had floated away, the soreness in my legs from running disappeared, and I felt like I could easily fall asleep if I desired to. You’re not going to wobble like you would after draining three shells of Stone Kava, but you’ll definitely notice the effect and feel very happy about it. Like I said, it doesn’t have the ritualistic intensity of a viscous Vanuatu Kava or the intenselyrelaxing glory of Nakamal at Home’s Tongan, but it is a good alternative if you’re not in the mood to lose yourself. I’d probably reach for the Tongan Kava on a weekday night, but I might reach for this on a weekday afternoon. Tastes good, feels good, and will be good to have around.

Taste – 7/10
Effect – 6.5/10

Kona Kava Farm’s Mahakea Kona Kava – 6.75 shells out of 10

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**This Kava is quite thick. The normal 1 cup of Kava to 2 cups of water will give you a sludge that won’t be very satisfying – and far too powerful to stomach. Instead, start out with 1 cup of Tongan Kava to 3 1/2 cups of water. I learned this the hard way, trust me. On the bright side (though there really isn’t a dark side), you’re going to get a lot more out of this than you would another variety.

I was very happy when I heard from the folks at Nakamal at Home that I had just ordered Kava that was fresh from the airport. I had heard things about Tongan Kava that were all but enthusiastic. “It’s kind of weak and it tastes different.” “Most of the Kava from Tonga really blows.” But I was happy that, assuming this Kava was going to be at least decent, it was fresh from Tonga and I could really wrap my mind around it and give my honest opinion. I could picture the journey from a bush garden in rural Tonga to Nuku’alofa, across the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast. I pictured the root harvested, sold at an outdoor market, ground, flown, processed, and finally poured into the airtight golden package in Boca Raton, Florida. True to their word, I received the package a few days later and opened it up, noticing that there was still powdery fingerprints on the package. That’s how fresh this stuff was. The freshest Kava I have ever brewed in the United States, hands down.

This Kava is really quite hard for me to explain. There is something so peculiar about it, something that I can’t quite find the words to explicate. I find that the name Nakamal has given it – “White Kava” – is really the best way to explain it. It is thicker and creamier than any other kind of Kava I have ever had. Its color truly is white – it looks like you are about to drink some kind of white chocolate coffee drink when you peer into the shell. I would even venture to say that this Kava looks and tastes like it could be a different plant altogether. It would already have been quite interesting to do an analysis of different varieties of Kava, but with this contestant thrown in the mix we truly see the endless surprises the world of Kavasseuring has to offer. In that sense, this Kava is already a welcome addition to the pantheon of Kava gods we have learned to give offerings to.

On a side note, let me just rephrase that this Kava was fresh. By fresh, I mean that it tasted like it was harvested within the last thirty days. It still had the flavor of a fresh garden root. The ground root was literally exploding with scent and earthy powder. The folks at Nakamal at Home have to be intensely congratulated for their hard work. You guys rock!

The taste of Tongan Kava is considerably different from that of a Vanuatu Kava. As stated above, it is creamier and thicker. But there is also something else that can only be explained as a “chalkiness.” And before you cringe, remember that that is not a bad thing. This is Kava we are talking about, after all. It goes down smoothly but has a kick at the end that makes you feel like you are truly taking a shot of something. But it has a nice, almost menthol-like effect on the mouth that sticks around for at least twenty minutes. As I write this, I am draining my third (and last) shell for the night, dwelling on the flavors. There is an incredible sweetness that you will notice while taking it down, a sweetness that you will probably forget about once you get to the chalkiness. That sweetness, however, seems to be what gives you the aftertaste. Just for the sheer surprise of its difference and thick, chalky goodness, this Kava rocks the charts in terms of its flavor.

The great thing about being a Kavasseur is that Kava isn’t the kind of thing that you grow accustomed to. You can never drink so much Kava that you will need to drink more and more to get krunked. Nope, quite the opposite. It is one of the stranger substances in this world in that when you drink it, over time, you actually become more sensitive to it. Coming into this Tongan Kava I can freely say that I drink Kava probably at least once every three days. Typically, I drink enough of it to “feel good.” By that, I mean I drink either three or four shells, or two cups of the super-potent Shaman Instant Kava. Being an anthropologist who has to write quite a lot, I love Kava because I can drink it and then dive into my prose. I can also journey deep into texts with a fully alert mind – yet a completely relaxed being. Obviously, I am krunked as I write this. Suffice it to say that Tongan Kava is a step in a new direction if you are a Kava drinker. It even provides you with a buzz that I am still unsure of how to explain. Strangely, it might be best to say that this Kava feels like a more powerful muscle relaxer than other Kavas. It is less heady, more relaxing, and brings you to a kind of blissful tiredness that could never be confused with lack of inertia or enthusiasm. This is the perfect end-of-the-workday Kava. I am incredibly pleased, and will probably buy more of this Kava than any other. It will surprise you in its sheer difference from other Kavas. Enjoy it.

Taste – 8.5/10
Effect – 8.5/10

Nakamal at Home – Tongan “White” Kava – 8 1/2 shells out of 10