Eugene’s only kava bar, LovaKava, sits in a prime location on West Broadway, has an ambitious vegan menu including pizza and offers a spectrum of BNF Kombucha flavors. There are lots of reasons to stop by, but really it’s all about the kava.
A tradition in Polynesian cultures involves making a beverage from water and powdered root of the kava plant, or Piper methysticum, which is endemic to the Pacific Islands. It’s used to unwind and as a social stimulant. Kava reached Hawaii and eventually the mainland U.S., becoming popular as an alternative to alcohol or other drugs.
LovaKava draws people as a hangout, study space or place to meet people. One regular customer, Chrystal Strobel, is a yoga studio manager at Rooted Space in the Whiteaker. She compares the environment in LovaKava to “Cheers” and says she comes every other day or so for a couple of “shells,” or bowls, of kava. Strobel said kava opens the throat and heart chakras, by which she means it stimulates conversation and social connection.
Strobel said she doesn’t smoke weed or drink, but that she comes to LovaKava “almost way too much — I was checking myself on the way over here, like, ‘Am I addicted to kava?'” she laughed. While it may be her habit, there’s no evidence that suggests kava is habit-forming. Though like any intoxicant, it should be consumed in moderation, or belly aches, skin rashes and liver stress can ensue, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Staff member Megan Proctor, a “kavatender,” also appreciates the environment at LovaKava. “It’s a social experience like a regular bar, but you’re not surrounded by drunk people.”
Proctor described the flavor as “like bitter dirt and water” and “peppery.” She doesn’t mind it, but also says IPAs are the only beer she drinks. She compared kava to black coffee, both in bitterness and the sense that you’re not drinking it for flavor, but for effect.
Features reporter Matt Denis and I made a short video about the experience and effects of drinking kava.
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