Kava craze hits the USA

A business owner in Florida says there’s a growing demand for kava in the United States, both for the product itself and the culture surrounding it.

Kavafied is the brain child of former NFL player Matt Masifilo, who developed a simple and quick way to make kava at the end of his 2014 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

He says people in the USA are catching on to the kava craze and the demand for the Pacific Island beverage is at an all-time high.

“There’s not enough kava right now to meet demand, especially with the phenomenon of the American kava bar scene that’s exploding on to the market right now."

However, Masifilo says it’s not just the kava root customers are after - they’re craving a cultural experience.

“Americans are starting to discover the wonderful aspects of our culture,” he says. “The best thing about kava is the communal aspect, the gathering, the talanoa, the discussion, the relaxed feeling of community that kava brings.”

Masifilo says it’s the perfect day and age for the kava industry.

“Americans are finding out that wonderful part about our island culture and they’re falling in love with it and it’s a big reason why the kava demand is really only bubbling right now, it’s only going to continue to skyrocket," he says.

"Everyone’s in need of that, in a digital age, everyone’s communicating behind their phones. They’re not out meeting people, they’re on their dating apps, they’re texting, they’re making phone calls.”

The 28-year-old is half Tongan and drank kava regularly during his sporting career as a remedy for injury pains.

“Getting into college football where the strain on the body is tested tremendously, the stress not only mentally and physically, I naturally looked to kava. My body didn’t react well to a lot of the anti-inflammatory and painkiller prescriptions… I stuck with kava and it helped me and since it helped me I just continued with it.”

Masifilo says he would share his kava with team mates from time to time but because the brewing of the root-drink was time consuming, he used his engineering degree to invent the AluBall kava maker.

“You can make kava in its traditional form, mess-free, easy and in a bottle. It’s perfect for a lock room. After a long match you can just throw some kava root in the AluBall, add some water, shake it up like you would a protein shake and you have a few shells of kava to drink.”

“The whole point of it is helping people sell kava to the masses that aren’t from the culture and that have Western ideologies.”

Since then, Masifilo has added other products to his business, including kava roots from his village Ha’atu’a in the outer island of ‘Eua in Tonga.

He says his business is not only financially helping his family in Tonga, but also allows the world to experience the richness of the Pacific culture.

“Visiting Tonga many times, I saw everyone is able and willing to work it’s just, what can you sell to the outside world that they can’t get elsewhere? Kava opened my eyes to that.”

“It was just a way for me to use what my ancestors have used in the past to treat a lot of things, and use it in a new light.”