The kava, a beverage acrid anti-stress in full boom

News 1 February, 2018
  • AFP


    Thursday, 1 February 2018 08:40

    Thursday, 1 February 2018 08:43

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    The peoples of the south Pacific eat over thousands of years. Today, kava is gaining the young New Yorkers stressed, sometimes willing to deny the alcohol in this drink for the anxiolytic effects, which helps them to face traffic jams, overwork and… Donald Trump.

    A powdered root, mixed with water and then filtered: the kava and the taste of muddy water can cause it to regurgitate, especially if it is not combined with fruit juice or another add-in.

    However, its effects relaxants and euphoriants are more and more requested in a busy city and stressful as New York.

    “If there’s a city that needs to relax a little and slow down, this is New York,” said Harding Stowe, a 31-year-old owner of the cafe “Brooklyn Kava”, in the trendy neighborhood of Bushwick in Brooklyn.

    “I really think (kava) is going to explode”, he adds.

    If drinking kava holds time-honoured traditions in the Fiji islands or in French Polynesia, in the West it is increasingly perceived as a healthy alternative to alcohol, by young people who want to party without waking up the next day with the hangover.

    “It is really relaxing. This is not like alcohol or drugs,” said Sabrina Cheng, a young artist from Brooklyn become a follower of the Brooklyn Kava. “I can’t bear the alcohol anyway. With kava, you can spend the whole day here, reading a book, working on his laptop, discuss.”

    For young people, “it’s a lot less cool than before to spend the evening in the bars,” stresses Stowe: “people want something new and healthy.”

    The kava had an initial enthusiasm in the 1990s. But exports of poor quality, added to a poor knowledge of the effects of the plant, had nurtured a strong counter-advertising.

    Today, despite a warning in 2002 of the us federal authorities on the risk of rare, but potentially serious” damage to the liver, the boom has resumed: between 2012 and 2016, exports of kava from only the Fiji islands has more than doubled.

    “Unlike the 1990s, our medical knowledge of the plant is much better. It has been extensively studied and is widely perceived as beneficial and safe,” explains the researcher Zbigniew Dumienski, the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

    If the kava is well established in Florida, it took off slowly in New York. The first american city only has three coffee shops, in the face of some 10 000 bars attracting young executives with their “happy hour” at the close of business.

    Two of these cafes are located in Bushwick, a neighborhood full of artists and young people looking for rents that are affordable, and the followers of the bars and cafes.

    “I’ve gone through moments of anxiety with my job previous and it (kava) has really helped a lot,” said Phil May, 25, a financial analyst in the media, sitting at a table at the “Home of Kava” with her friend Susie.

    “Before, I drank alcohol two-three times per week and I thought sometimes a binge on the weekend,” he said. “There, it should be two weeks that I have not touched alcohol.”

    To attract the public, the House of the kava offers all sorts of entertainment, including evenings, and are open to amateur musicians who attract young rappers, poets and comedians. The average age hovers around 25 years, but customers are also beginning to pass through its doors.

    “I come from a conservative family where I am the only progressive. The state of the world, this is the biggest stress factor for me,” says Kellianne Holland, 24 years, employee of a non-profit association, met at the Home of Kava.

    The lights are dim, the ambiance is soft and quiet. A woman is immersed in her laptop, another bed, while a couple speak in a low voice. Not a word higher than the other, unlike the bars in new york city.

    “No one has yet threatened to put out the fire neither started a fight”, lance laughing, the manager, Ryan Lloyd.

    Business is starting to walk, ” he said. As the Brooklyn Kava, where Harding Stowe has now overcome his fear of having made a mistake in starting this business.

    Before, says Mr. Stowe, “the people did not know what was the kava”. But in the last six months, “this is crazy, we don’t stop”. “Things stressful occurred in America, with the election of Trump (…) This has contributed to the growth of the kava,” he said.

    He is planning to open other cafes kava or partner with yoga studios or meditation that sell the drink.

    Trump, it is so good for business? “It is sad to say, but probably,” admits the young entrepreneur.