The 2017 Kava Awards


2017 was a transitional year for Kava, and it was also a year that saw the Kava market open up to more fair and honest business practices. The market saw vendors like Root of Happiness and Nakamal at Home finally bring consumer choice and quality science back to the forefront with Hawaiian and Papua New Guinea Tudeis (and Hawaiian Isa) on the market. Disenchanted with market manipulation, many vendors walked away from the anti-Tudei discourse which has dominated and confused much of the community over the past few years. Many of us decided to side with science, which unequivocally shows that Kava of all varieties is safe for human consumption and that the liver scare that led to the European ban was not caused by Kava. In fact, the response to the liver scare by “Kava scientists” was more damaging to Kava than the ban itself. Early in the year, a prominent Hawaiian Kava vendor even disclosed that these scientists admitted to him at a conference that they had to scapegoat Tudei/Isa in order to satisfy European authorities. This raised many red flags, but most importantly – why should European governments be allowed to dictate how indigenous Kava farmers categorize their crops and plant them? Should we side with neocolonial technocrats or the farmers who have been cultivating Kava for thousands of years? By scapegoating Kava’s reputation on one variety of Kava, and then proclaiming a witch hunt against vendors who were accused of “spiking” their Kava with Tudei, these Kava scientists perpetuated a falsehood which has caused harm to both farmers and consumers alike. In 2017, the Kava community began to correct the course. Even though some corners of the dark web still look for reasons to attack vendors, most Kava drinkers have learned how to discern the grain from the chaff. Even though we are forced to reckon with the fall-out of this blatant collusion, we are happy to live during a time when an unprecedented variety and quality of Kava are readily available. As long as we focus on actual Kava farmers and the actual science which speaks to the safety of all Kava, we will survive the ramblings of basement chemists and the “Noble Youth.”

Vendor of the Year – Kavafied

Kavafied has put the sustainability of Kava farming at the center of their mission. Their commitment to investing in farmers, and reinvesting a large portion of their profits back into farming communities, is impressive and admirable.They are incredibly innovative with products including the AluBall, AluBottle, beautiful traditional Tanoas, and different sizes and grades of Kava strainers.  On top of that, they offer some of the best Kavas on the market. My personal favorite is their Kava Tonga, which has an artisanal quality that speaks brilliantly. Their Kava supreme from Vanuatu is still one of the strongest Kavas available. Also, kudos to Kavafied for being a “bridge” across the Kava community. Their commitment to Kava has been complete, and they have never “taken sides” in the arguments between various parties on controversial issues.

Best New Vendor – Kava Vinaka

I met the owner of Kava Vinaka in Baltimore over the summer, and after a session with some Waka he brought with him, got on his case to get his awesome Fijian Kava to market. In November, Kava Vinaka released a trio of Fijian Kavas including a beautiful premium Kava (“Chief’s Choice”), a hard-hitting Waka, and a medicinal grade and ultra-relaxing Lawena. These are all 9+ grade Kavas, and are bursting with Kavalactones. Kava Vinaka hands-down stands out as 2017’s best new vendor.

Most Innovative Vendor – Root of Happiness

From bringing Papua New Guinea Kava back to the market, to offering Samoan Kava, to breaking the news that Micronesian Kava was on the way, and finally to making great efforts to bring back offerings of fresh Kava – Root of Happiness has been pushing the envelope for a long time. I never tried Root of Happiness until earlier this year, but have become very impressed with their owner’s ambitions to bring exotic, quality Kavas to the Kava market.

Best Artisanal Vendor – Bula Kava House

Bula Kava House brought the goods this year with artisanal Kavas. Bula Kava House’s “Private Reserve” Leka Hina was a grand slam addition to the Kava market, albeit a short-lived one (since it sold out within a week). A hand picked, single variety cultivar from Tonga, Leka Hina brought supreme relaxation and a subtle yet complex flavor. It also came in a top-shelf tubular box that added a beautiful dimension to a complex and bold Kava.

Kava(s) of the Year

  1. Kavafied – Kava Tonga (9.8/10)
  2. Kava Vinaka – Chief’s Choice (9.75/10)
  3. Squanch Kava – Waka (9.75/10)
  4. Nakamal at Home – Hawaiian Awa (Isa) (9.7/10)
  5. Bula Kava House – Private Reserve Leka Hina (9.7/10) 
  6. Root of Happiness – Vanuatu Premium (9.7/10)
  7. The Kava Roots – Paulie’s Blend (9.5/10)

Sheller’s Choice – Nakamal at Home

Nakamal at Home continued to serve the goods despite incessant and unwarranted attacks from the “Noble Youth.” Stone remains the dominant Vanuatu Kava and is served in Kava bars throughout southern Florida.  Nakamal at Home is now one of the prime veteran Kava vendors online, and have stayed in the game for over a decade. This year, they released a Hawaiian Isa that will absolutely knock your socks off. Unfortunately, it sold out within days due to popular demand. Rumor has it that another Tudei is coming out any day now 🙂


    1. I am doing an article on Tudei and gathering information from prominent kava scientist around the world. Could you please provide me the name of the scientist who commented that Tudei was safe. Without a valid source then it is hearsay and I cannot quote him or your article.

    1. A bibliography is a list of articles. I think you are thinking of a biography. I don’t have any biographies of Kava scientists.

  1. Hmm, I though you were the one that got it mixed up. My bad. I just want the name of the prominent kava scientist who admitted that Tudei was safe to drink. Just one little name. I don’t need a library of articles and I doubt they exist anyway. But you could once again prove me wrong by providing the articles.

    1. This article discusses glutathione which counteracts all potential issues with Tudei and liver damage: Xuan et al

      The following quotes come from two scientists who fueled the original Tudei scare by scapegoating it for purposes of European acceptance:

      “No relevant toxicity was found for any of the tested materials and assays, which was confirmed by morphological evaluation of cell viability.”

      Rolf Gebhardta and Mathias Schmidt

      And from the horse’s mouth:

      “There is abundant data of in vitro cytotoxicity including apoptosis by pipermethystine and flavokavain B added to the incubation media, yet evidence is lacking of in vivo hepatotoxicity in experimental animals under conditions similar to human kava use. Furthermore, in commercial Western kava extracts, pipermethystine was not detectable and flavokavain B was present as a natural compound in amounts much too low to cause experimental liver injury. “

      Lebot et al –

      1. Glutathione is found in all Kava varieties and protects cells from liver damage. The only time they have “shown” flav B to be hepatoxic is when they isolate it with liver cells in a lab. That isn’t how Kava is actually consumed though.

  2. How amazing that the nature seems to anticipate our consumption of a substance. The plant is prebuilt with components to off set its potential harms.

    There are a number of botanicals with similar synergy, like they are miraculously balanced to human biochemistry. At least miraculous to me 🙂

  3. I read those articles and with the help of someone who understands the chemistry. Those articles were written to show regular Kava was safe but there is no mention of Tudei. There is nothing in that article that says Tudei is safe. So we are back to the articles written by Dr. Lebot which call for us to avoid Tudei. Can you provide a Tudei specific article to back up your conclusions? Thanks.

    1. Look at the chemical breakdown of Isa and then look at the chemical breakdown of Hanakapi’Ai. See the difference? That’s right, same chemical breakdown with different levels of different kavalactones and flavs. That’s the whole point. You will find flav B in ALL Kava. It appears in slightly higher levels in Tudei. However, due to glutathione it has no impact on the liver. Tudei, like all Kava (generally discussed in these articles) is safe.

      1. I don’t know about all that, I am not a kava scientist. I’m reading the end of an article by Rolf Gebhardt and Mathias Schmidt that says that Tudei is slightly toxic. Under conclusions it says. The possibility of toxicity induced by chronic ingestion of Tudei kava still needs to be addressed in vivo. My conclusion, with all the good noble kava available for sale, why would I go against the practices of natives who safely drank kava for 1000 years. Why would I even risk ingesting a potentially toxic. FYI, I did have a bad hangover when from some Tudei from PNG. I learned my lesson the hard way. Kavasseur, you have pull in the community. Please tell the vendors who are selling kava with Tudei Filler to label the package so we can at least make an educated decision. I’m tired of the BS where they say “It’s a weekend kava”. Give me truth in labeling. Then let people decide what they want to drink based on that. Thank you for addressing this contentious subject in public.

      2. You’re welcome. I wholeheartedly agree that vendors should properly label their Kava. My argument has always been that people should be able to choose what kind of Kava they want to drink. By creating and supporting a market for Tudei, we will actually see less mixing in. If Tudei can be explicitly sold, it will not need to be mixed. In fact, it is actually more expensive than Noble!

  4. Hmmm, I hope the FDA agrees with you on all this. We have kept them at bay this long by showing them how we monitor our kava and I how we take measures to make sure the kava is safe. I sure don’t want them looking at kava the same way that they are looking at Kratom. Time will tell.

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