Food & Drink

What is Kava? Your Kava Kove Primer

Have you ever been interested in trying natural alcohol alternatives? Whether you are sober, sober-curious, or just curious, Kava is a great option to try! Kava is a natural alcohol alternative that has been gaining traction in the United States and harm-reduction communities in recent years due to its nonpsychoactive relaxation.

What is Kava?

Kava is an acquired taste. It is described as a slight bitter “earthy” taste. Brett Erpelding, Kava Kove’s CEO said “On the first of our many exploratory trips to Florida and California to learn more about Kava I had several ‘Mocktails’ using kava in place of alcohol and absolutely loved them. However, when I drank my first shell (just straight kava tea), I thought that is definitely going to be an acquired taste – and sure enough, on all future trips, all I purchased and drank were shells!

The island of Samoa has a picture of a man preparing kava on their two-tala (dollar) bill.

Where does Kava come from?
The kava plant is native to the Pacific Islands region. It is cultivated across the islands but is most prominent in Fiji, Hawaii, Samoa, Wallis and Futuna, and Tonga. While it does grow in Tonga, it cannot grow in New Zealand as the climate is slightly too cold for it.

Kava Culture

Kava is very important to many Pacific Island cultures as part of ceremonies, gatherings, and celebrations—for this reason, some countries have used images of Kava on their currency or on postage stamps. Most notably, Wallis and Futuna had a stamp design in 1995 that showed an image of the Kava plant and the island of Samoa has a picture of a man preparing kava on their two-tala [dollar] bill.

In Fiji, Kava is the national drink and is still used regularly. Typically, you can see kava being consumed at different ceremonies, gatherings, and celebrations. At a traditional Fijian Kava ceremony, or Sevusevu, the Kava is prepared at the beginning of the ceremony and the first person to take a drink from the bowl will be the Chief or most senior person in the group. Each person must clap three times after taking a drink, often cheering “Bula!” before drinking. Bula is a Fijian expression that roughly translates as a toast or wish of health and happiness. If an important visitor comes, a Kava ceremony is typically conducted. In 2018 on an official trip, Prince Harry and Meghan Markel shared kava with the Fijians.

Kava also makes a great gift! In Fiji tradition, if a son upsets his father, he can repair relations by gifting his father Kava. In another tradition, any visitor coming into a village must bring a gift of Kava to the Chief. It is also often a gift at weddings, funerals, and different “rite of passage” celebrations.

Traditional Kava preparation

What does Kava do?

Kava provides feelings of relaxation, without being psychoactive. Kava can also help reduce pain sensations and could help protect neurons from damage. It is often used as an alternative to alcohol due to the fact that it provides the “loosened up” feeling that alcohol can give without the dangers that alcohol can cause. The way kava works is by introducing kavalactones into your body. Kavalactones have been found to reduce convulsions, promote sleep, and relax muscles in animals. An effective dose of Kava, according to experts, is a kavalactone content of 70-250mg. When purchasing Kava products, it is extremely important to find products that list the kavalactone content. You will also want to know if your Kava is noble or non-noble which we will discuss later in the article.

Safety Precautions

While Kava is natural and an alcohol alternative, there are some safety precautions you should follow when consuming Kava.

  • Kava should never be mixed with alcohol or any sedatives. This can cause unsafe interactions.
  • You should always consult a physician before using
  • Kava, especially if you take any medications such as benzodiazepines and/or anti-depressants or if you have any existing medical conditions such as liver disease or Parkinson’s.
  • If you plan to have surgery, stop consuming kava for at least two weeks before your surgery as Kava can increase the duration of surgical anesthesia.
  • You should not use Kava if you are nursing, pregnant, or under the age of 18.
  • Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how kava affects you.
  • A potential risk of a rare, but severe, liver injury may be associated with consuming Kava (Required by ND DPHHS)
  • Most adverse effects that people experience when using Kava are due to overconsumption with low tolerance.

U.S. Use

Kava is popular in coastal states such as Florida and California, but what about the upper Midwest? That’s where we come in. At Kava Kove, we are bringing a taste of Fiji to Fargo with this natural alcohol alternative. Our owners have a strong passion for harm reduction and have seen and experienced the struggles of alcohol dependence from many angles. Trips to Florida helped build and enforce this passion by introducing them to the Kava bar concept. Kava Bars are abundant in Florida, it’s even known as the Kava Capital of the U.S., but they are essentially non-existent in our region. The closest dedicated Kava bar is in Chicago, so we decided it was time to change that.

203 people have died in alcohol-related vehicle crashes in North Dakota in the past five years. Underage and unsafe alcohol consumption is a large issue in the upper Midwest, as is impaired driving. Harm reduction saves lives and shows the needed compassion toward those in addiction and recovery. Kava Kove will provide the social piece that many people who are striving to get sober miss out on. Bars can provide a great community feel, but if you are working on reducing or eliminating your alcohol consumption, having the temptation of alcohol while it is easily accessible can make it harder to stay on path.

A cup of Kava

The Kava bar will provide a cozy, community-focused atmosphere where you can go to play board games with friends or meet new people at the bar. We have taken the Fijian aesthetic into account while designing the interior. We have a gorgeous hand-painted mural of Fiji behind the bar to make sure you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation without all the hassle of travel! We are extremely fortunate that our Kava Kove Supervisor, Anthony Prasad (featured in previous editions), came to work for us. Anthony’s parents were born in Fiji, and he is the first generation of his family to be born in the United States. He has been around Kava his whole life and has an extensive knowledge of Kava. Anthony is helping us in our journey to educate and excite the community about Kava and the benefits that it brings. While we currently only have our downtown Fargo location, our goal is to expand this one location into several Kava bars around the Upper Midwest in order to share our love and passion for Kava and wellness in general.

This beautiful mural and decor inside Kava Kove will have you feeling like you are on a tropical vacation!

Noble Kava

Our Kava will be what is referred to as “Noble Kava”. There are two main types of Kava, Noble and Tudei (Aka Non- Noble). Unfortunately, with the lack of research into the exact differences between the two, it is hard to tell which is best, but most companies opt for Noble Kava. Tudei Kava was cultivated sparsely in the Pacific Islands and was reserved for medicinal or special ceremonial purposes, not for daily consumption. The main drawback of Tudei Kava is that there are some questions regarding its safety due to the very high potency of the kavalactones. It can cause nausea, lethargy, as well as other issues. Kava contains FKB or Flavokawain B which has been proven to be toxic to liver cells. In the prepared Noble Kava, the amount of FKB is negligible or non-existent, but Tudei can contain twenty times the amount of FKB. It gets complicated because recent studies have found that FKB may have significant benefits in certain clinical applications. It is incredibly important to know which form of Kava you are consuming since Tudei and Noble Kava are nearly identical once dried and ground. At Kava Kove, we have decided to opt for only Noble Kava for the safety and comfort of our customers.

Have a Taste!

As mentioned earlier, Kava can be mixed with other drinks to compliment the natural flavor
of Kava. We will be offering traditional Kava, served plain in a bamboo shell as well as a variety of Kava mocktails! Kava can be made into just about any mocktail by just replacing the alcohol in the original recipe with Kava. Many people tend to opt for drinks like Piña Coladas that have a strong fruity flavor to counterbalance the bitter taste of Kava.

Coming Soon!

Address: 310 Main Ave Ste 160, Fargo, ND 58103

Phone: 218-979-3252



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