Kava: The root returns at the kava festival and a new cafe

Jerel Moses presents a bowl of kava at Smokey's Pipe and Coffee.

Kava Festival

When it comes to laid-back get-togethers, it’s hard to top the annual Hawaii Pacific Islands Kava Festival, coming up this Saturday on campus at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Sure, kava numbs your gums and tastes like dirt, but there’s a reason it’s been Polynesia’s pau hana beverage of choice for millennia. It eases your mind without diminishing your mental sharpness, and it promotes friendliness, focus and calm. Nobody laughs too loudly or gets into fights when they’re drinking kava.

Sponsored by the Awa Development Council (awa is Hawaiian for kava) the day-long kava festival will feature scientific displays, Hawaiian cultural presentations and workshops, live music, food, arts and crafts, and more lomilomi therapists than you can shake a massage stick at.

Naturally, the event will be awash in kava, both for sale and in its free-sample form.

I’ve been to the kava fest twice, and if past years are any guide, several hundred gum-numbed kava drinkers will be there, kicked back beneath the shady trees between Snyder Hall and the art school, and conversing in pleasant, hushed tones.

Kava Fest, UH Manoa, Oct. 12, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., free admission.

Smokey's Pipe and Coffee now serving…

The traditional way of making kava involves laboriously kneading the pulverized root of the kava plant. The fast way of making kava involves dissolving instant kava in water.

Both preparations are available at the newly opened Smokey’s Pipe and Coffee in Moiliili, in the space formerly occupied by Rainbow Books & Records. As a kava lover myself, I say stick with the traditional style. Instant kava can be harsh on your stomach, especially if you drink it in the quantities I do.

A variety of flavored powders—including chocolate, taro and chai—can be added to the kava here to mask its natural, dirt-like flavor. But again, as a traditionalist, I say let kava be kava. Believe it or not, the taste will actually grow on you.

At its locations in Waikiki and Wahiawa, Smokey’s is a classic head shop, a purveyor of bongs, hookahs and rolling papers. This Smokey’s is a hybrid, part head shop, part coffee café. Kava’s not the main attraction, but with the management talking about rolling out a Saturday all-you-can-drink kava night, that could change, at least once a week.

In the meantime, an eight-ounce glass of traditional brew goes for $3.95. But for best effect go with the 20-ounce glass, or two, or more, for $6.65 apiece.

Smokey’s Pipe and Coffee, 1010 University Ave., 955-2837