Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's Kava Time!

Due to popular demand (well, one person), I'm breathing new life into my blog after months of neglect.

I'm embarrassed that I even failed to remark on the death of the subject of my last post, Herb Kane. He died March 8, 2011, about eight months after my interview. So alas, I never got to collect on his kind offer of an adult beverage served on his lanai. But I was lucky to have a long phone conversation with the legendary artist, whose paintings grace so many rooms throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Today, on the first day of the new year, I decided to start things out in a mellow manner by reporting on my visit to Portland's first and only kava bar, Bula Kava House. This was not my first experience with the tranquility-inducing drink, made from the powdered root of the kava, or 'awa, plant. I wrote a blog post about imbibing kava from a coconut shell at Portland State University's lu'au in May 2009. After sampling kava, I didn't mind a bit that the dancing part of the program kept getting delayed. I had all the time in the world.

At Bula, I was served by Jamie Campa, the bartender, or shell tender. I had my choice of two varieties of kava: borogu, which is spicy and energizing ($3.50 per shell); and fu'u, which is more potent and would leave me feeling really mellow ($3.75). I chose fu'u and Jamie ladled the brown liquid from a large glass container into a half coconut shell.

Jamie didn't want me to have to drink alone. After all, kava is a social libation. So she poured a shell for herself and led me through the proper ritual.

Before drinking, we each clapped once. That action would invite positive energy and even friendly ancestors to witness our imbibing. We lifted the shells to our lips and drank without stopping, until the shells were empty. Then we each clapped our hands twice, dispelling any bad energy that managed to sneak in. Finally, we each ate a chunk of fresh pineapple to refresh our palates.

I felt the effects of the kava almost immediately. My lips began to tingle. Warmth spread down my limbs and through my body. I felt -- yeah, real mellow. And I still do.

Jamie told me that although kava's physiological effects are obvious, we were certainly not intoxicated. "There's no foggy thinking, no poor judgment," she informed me. She said I'd feel relaxed, perhaps a tad euphoric. As for her, she said kava makes her feel meditative.

In fact, she said kava is an effective hangover cure. She was surprised there weren't more customers on New Year's Day.

Bula is a multi-purpose word like aloha. In Fijian it means cheers, hello and goodbye. Bula Kava House fits in snugly with some of the hip new eateries on Division Street, including Wafu and Sunshine Tavern. Jamie says the place is hopping every Thursday night, when there's live music, and the first Friday of each month, which is open mic night.

It's an attractive space, with Polynesian masks and local art on the walls. There's even a small library of books about the featured beverage. Titles include "Kava: Nature's Relaxant," "The Pacific Elixir" and "Hawaiian 'Awa: Views of an Ethnobotanical Treasure."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been to Bula for their open mic and it's a nice space. Next time I'll be imbibing on Kava and will make sure to clap first. Thanks for posting, Susan!