It was just after midnight when the effects of the Kava finally wore off. I’d taken my first sip of this rooty beverage from a half coconut shell around noon, quickly followed by a second and third bowl, the recommended dosage. I hadn’t anticipated a 12 hour buzz, I had just wandered into the understated SquareRut Kava Bar on South Congress looking for a cup of coffee.
As it turns out, there are only 13 Kava bars in the United States, 8 of which are in Florida. Texas has only one Kava bar and it is located at 6000 S. Congress Ave. in a very nondescript lonely square building surrounded by a field of grass.
The owners, Scott Pingel and Tracy Moreno were very welcoming. It was early and I was the only one in the joint, so they took the time to explain Kava and the phenomenon that they hope will catch on in Austin. After the third bowl, my tongue had turned to lava and rolled out of my mouth onto the floor. Someone was telling my life story to these fine people. I believe I muttered something to the effect that I have no doubt this strange little café will catch on in Austin. We are the buzz capital of the world. Or is that music?
Kava is the root of the Kava plant– a reverential herb among the Polynesian cultures of the South Pacific islands. The active ingredient is Kavalctones, which react to the GABA receptors in your brain similar to alcohol. The effect is somewhere between 2 scotches on an empty stomach, the 15 minutes just before your eyes start moving around in tiny circles of an ecstasy buzz and a very tiny vaporized hit of high grade clean cannabis. Like I’ve ever taken a tiny hit in my life. The point is this shit is an inebriant.
And really, trying to describe any buzz is a fool’s game. It’s like trying to explain your vacation. No one gives a shit. Don’t start talking about buzzes or vacations unless you’re willing to whip out a blunt or a couple of plane tickets. It’s all about the experience, baby. So let me just say this. It felt so good, I’m surprised it’s legal.
Wait. Let me rephrase that. I’m actually surprised that any drug is illegal. Why is altering consciousness deemed illegal? How is society being hurt by the act of one person getting high?
If you commit a crime by driving while intoxicated or robbing someone to obtain money to buy a drug, there is already a legal punishment for the crime. Sure, the cause of the crime was the drug ingestion or addiction but we don’t punish the cause of any other crime–with the possible exception of “hate crimes.” If punishing the cause of crime were the norm, poverty would be illegal, our failed education system would be illegal, lack of opportunity would be illegal, starvation would be illegal, greed would be illegal.
Put this on a billboard: Punish the crime, treat the addiction.
But I digress. Kava can do that to you.
So let’s get back to the taste, which is a little easier to describe than the buzz. The Kava root is ground into powder, soaked in water and cultivated for two days. The drink tastes exactly like that–a ground up root soaked in water. Or imagine pummeling a number two pencil and soaking it in mud. Yum, yum, right? Not to worry, the Kava bar has flavored Kava, like mocha and peanut butter and coconut. “You get used to it,” Tracy told me as she poured my second bowl– mocha-almond as a follow up.
A native American friend once told me his grandmother used to ask him why he bothered to put roses in the bathroom. “Now bathroom smells like shit and roses.” I was reminded of that after drinking the mocha-almond-flavored Kava. It tasted slightly better than the original, but it still tasted like root water with almond and mocha. Look, Scotch tastes horrible the first time you try it as do cigarettes or peyote or mushrooms for that matter. Hell, I’d suck on a log of shit if it gave me a good enough buzz. That’s how I roll.
Wait a second. Did I just admit that I’d eat shit? Strike that from the record. That’s the Kava talking.
Anyway, I was smitten with the place and as a parting gift, Scott and Tracy gave me a bag of Kava cookies that they had been experimenting with. I shook hands, thanked them and pedaled out of there on a cloud. I had plenty of energy for the bike ride home but I fully expected the buzz to have burned off by the time I had taken a shower. Apparently it was only getting started. I experimented with reading, but that was an abysmal failure. My power of concentration was shot. I took a power nap, woke up and the buzz was still lingering.
Truthfully after about 4 hours I was ready for the sensation to fade away, but it was still hanging around like a guest that wouldn’t leave. The buzz was physical and calming, but for me at least, mentally debilitating. My normal routine was shot. I had no desire to finish up my taxes or write this article for that matter. I only wanted to lay outside and soak up the beautiful spring day. Which I did.
Wait, what was I bitching about again?
Here’s the deal. If you consider yourself a connoisseur or collector of buzzes, you will want to experience the SquareRut Kava Bar for yourself. The ambiance is mellow with live music on the weekends. There is free wi-fi and comfortable couches and they even have extra large party bowls for a more tribal experience. Maybe I’ll see you there.
And by the way, if you want to know the health benefits or potential side effects of drinking Kava, I recommend you let your fingers do the walking. You know, Google it. This ain’t a health blog.
SquareRut Kava Bar
6000 S. Congress Ave. Ste 106
Austin, TX 78745
Hours: Mon-Sun noon to midnight
Acrylic on Canvas Painting by: Kevin Taylor