Fiji earned around $3.4 to 3.9 million in 2014 from kava exports. Whereas in Vanuatu, kava export has increased by 26 percent since 2016. As the demand for the Kava crop continuous to rise, Kava-producing regions are seeking to keep up with the demands of the market. Beverage giant PepsiCo has a kava-infused beverage lined up. Whole Foods has kava wellness tonics. In the U.S., a Kava culture is starting to gain momentum—especially with the endorsement of notable people like former Stanford University football standout, Matt Masifilo. From pharmaceuticals to beverage companies, to the growing number of Kava bars sprouting across the globe, we can see that a Kava craze is mounting.
Kava also called Kava kava or Piper Methysticum is an evergreen shrub. It is cultivated in the islands of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. Locals in the region have been utilizing this root crop as a social drink. For thousands of years, the rituals and practices around this sacred root served as a symbolic bond between people and the spirit world. Regarded as “The Drink of Gods”, Kava has played a significant role in these islands’ societies. So much so that friendships are formed, visitors are properly welcomed, and decisions are made while gathered around shells of Kava drinks.
To learn more about Matt Masifilo and Kava, watch this exclusive interview with Bold Business Associate Publisher John Miles.
The Benefits of Drinking Kava – the creation of Kavafied and Aluball
The natural calm that one can get from drinking Kava can be attributed to its psychoactive compound—called, Kavalactones. With a calming, sedating and anesthetic properties, Kava as a social drink helps people to relax, loosen up and engage with others effortlessly. Additionally, Kava has been found to help ease anxiety, treat nervous tension and improve sleeping problems. In fact, Kava increases the levels of dopamine in the brain. Thus, it allows its drinkers also to experience a mild euphoric feeling without the side effects one gets from drinking alcoholic drinks, such as morning-after headaches and nasty hangovers.
Kava varieties are categorized based on where they are harvested. There are many Kava cultivars available in the market. Depending on the effect desired by the drinker, Kava can be classified as Heady, Heavy or Balanced. Heady kava is best for daytime for an energetic and euphoric effect. Heavy kava is suited for the evenings as it relaxes the body and gives a sedating effect. Balanced kava and its effect fall in between the heavy and heady classifications. Hence, you can consume it at any time.
Indeed, with all these benefits, it is not surprising that this unassuming Pacific Islands root crop has been gaining a strong following. In the U.S., one of the prominent advocates of Kava is former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Carolina Panthers player, Matthew “Matt” Masifilo. Matt is now focused on becoming the leading Kava distributor in the United States.
Matt Masifilo: Kava Advocate Through and Through
As a matter of fact, more than a lifestyle, drinking Kava is part of Matt Masifilo’s heritage. Being half-Tongan, Masifilo is used to drinking kava with the elders of the community. Growing up and building a habit around the Kava culture, he seeks to shine the spotlight on the Polynesian identity.
A true Kava advocate, Matt Masifilo founded Kavafied with the mission of sharing the Kava culture with the rest of the world. Masifilo has knowledge of farming, brewing, and drinking passed on from generation to generation. So, with these, he is bringing an authentic Kava experience closer to more people. And thus, with this in mind, Kavafied offers a selection of kava root powder. The selection starts with Kava Supreme (Strong/Heavy), Kava Bati (Balanced/Heady), Kava Tonga (Heady/Euphoric), and finally, Kava Lapita (Strong/Heavy/Dreamy).
Additionally, Matt Masifilo noticed that the traditional way of preparing Kava drinks has been deterring users from fully embracing the Kava lifestyle. As an innovator-entrepreneur, Masifilo invented the AluBall—”The World’s First Kava Maker.”Aluball is a bottle specially-designed to make Kava preparation easier, more consistent and faster.
Matt Masifilo and the Kava Culture
Similarly, Matt Masifilo pays homage to the way Kava has been honored in Polynesian societies through the Modernesian Kava Social Bar’s Kava Circle. A circular and communal area, the Kava Circle replicates the natural watering hole for the community. This community is where villagers can gather to drink Kava and enjoy discussions on various topics—such as business and politics—and pass down or share cross-generational knowledge.
Ultimately, Masifilo is looking at a future where coffee shops will become Kava bars as well. Indeed, there is a part of the demographic that doesn’t like to drink alcohol but would still want to socialize. With the introduction of Kava and creating a thriving Kava culture, Masifilo looks at giving more options to this segment of the population.
A Revival of the Kava Interest
Indeed, Kava found its way to the western world in the late 90s. Kava exports to the U.S. surged from 90,473 kilograms in 1997 to 437,099 kilograms in 1998. Nevertheless, notably in recent years, the kava industry has experienced some hiccups due to liver toxicity and export controls from European nations. Fortunately, these prohibitions have been lifted, and toxicology reports pertaining to Kava are being revisited. Evidently, the revival of interest on Kava as of late is highly encouraging.