One of the fastest-growing wellness beverage trends reached Naples in September with the opening of Kava Culture, the sixth kava bar in Southwest Florida under the same ownership.
Grown throughout the South Pacific, the root of the kava plant is used to produce a drink that has sedative properties and also creates a feeling of well-being. The same attributes seem to account for its popularity in sunny, outdoorsy Florida. Kava Culture serves a wide variety of teas, elixirs, and coolers; they are dedicated to using the product to “combat the stressors of our modern lifestyle,” and hope to bring their customers back to “a simpler time.”
“Kava is very soothing,” says manager Margaret Buch, “but we’re more than a café. We’re creating an open and welcoming community that draws people in and makes them feel comfortable.” She observes that since Kava Culture is a sober environment, it attracts many recovering addicts who feel safe in their community. The central rite is the bula (Fijian for “good luck” or “good health”), a group toast that draws everyone together.
Internet research reveals a conflicting range of opinion about the health benefits of kava. Some sources contend that it can be harmful or dangerous, depending on the species of plant and method of preparation, but few of those claims can be scientifically verified. Kava Culture is fastidious about preparing the plant for consumption, and advocates such as Buch prefer to emphasize the healing benefits and psychological advantages of the drink. “The favorite part of my day is seeing the effects kava has on new customers—easing their worries and having them experience something they’ve never had before.”