I like to imagine that plants have unique personalities just like people.
When I think of matcha’s anthropomorphized form, I conjure up an image of a well-dressed, sophisticated social butterfly with a sharp wit and knack for smooth talk. Enter Kava (Piper methysticum), a root originating from the Pacific Islands that is used to make a relaxing ceremonial beverage known as “kava kava.”
Kava’s character starts off bold, but soon gives way to a mellow demeanor. An unlikely friendship between kava and camellia sinensis (the true tea plant from which matcha is made) makes for a buzzy beverage, great for relaxing with friends, attending a celebration, or going out for a night on the town.
In the first part of this series on teetotaling with matcha, I describe matcha as a sip-able alternative to alcohol for those who abstain or just need a break from booze. Matcha’s healthful qualities and energy, mood and memory-boosting effects make it an excellent celebratory beverage.
I'm somewhat of a curious kitchen witch, so I couldn't help spicing up my coldbrewed matcha by blending it with some kava to enhance its feel-good and relaxing traits.
What is kava exactly?
My first impression of kava was that it looked (and tasted) like a cup of dirty water. But after a few sips, it seemed to relax my body and had me feeling incredibly present. The 3,000-year-old beverage is traditionally made by pounding or chewing the roots of the kava plant, combining the product with water, and drinking the filtered liquid.
Kava lactones are the active component of kava and give this chill beverage its anti-anxiety, muscle relaxing, and analgesic qualities (note: it’s normal for your mouth to feel tingly or even full-on numb). Kava is not your ordinary cup of tea because the kava lactones aren’t water-soluble; they have to be coerced into your cup.
The most common modern preparation is to blend the kava with water in a blender for 5 minutes and the strain the liquid. You can also massage the kava root in cheesecloth and place in warm water for 10-15 minutes.
Complications with Kava?
It needs to be noted that some folks are not fans of kava. WebMD, for example, alerts readers that “kava is possibly unsafe when taken by mouth.” How did this ancient beverage develop a bad rap? The tale goes that it started from an ill-informed decision of a German pharmaceutical company, who extracted the entire plant, when only the roots are traditionally used for consumption by Pacific Islanders. Buyers of this unsound extract started to get sick and Germany tightened the regulations and completely banned kava in 2002 (the ban was overturned in 2014).
Due to this international herbal drama, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed an assessment in 2007 about kava’s possible hepatotoxicity and concluded that the “kava lactones in any type of product may rarely cause hepatic adverse reactions because of kava-drug interactions, excessive alcohol intake, metabolic or immune-mediated idiosyncrasy, excessive dose or pre-existing liver disease.”
While the WHO states that kava should not be mixed with alcohol, and certainly not take by people who take certain medications for preexisting conditions, for me matcha makes a mighty fine mate for kava’s peppery taste and chilled-out temperament.
Kava + Matcha
I love preparing Breakaway Matcha’s coldbrew reserve matcha as a cocktail alternative for gatherings at my house. It is incredibly easy to prepare and my guests can stylishly sip the green elixir out of mason jars while watching the sunset in my back yard. The coldbrew reserve has a smooth sip-ability, delectable umami taste, and creamy finish. If, as the saying goes, opposites really do attract, then kava would definitely like to cuddle up with its matcha counterpart. Contrary to matcha’s subtleties, kava has a strong flavor that immediately hits your taste buds. Its peppery kick tickles the back of your throat and then expands in your mouth. Together, the two create waves of flavor sensations that ripple through your mouth. Note that kava is not for those with sensitivebpalates; its bitter taste lives up to its translated name: “intoxicating pepper.”
For me, the combination of these two plants evokes a relaxed but clear and perceptive state. The kava lactones and l-theanine work together to make a supreme chill-out beverage. While I do feel sometimes feel on cloud nine, I’m definitely not glued to the couch. The gentle caffeine from matcha raises my energy, so I am ready to engage in meaningful conversation or move my body to some music.
-1/2 cup dried kava root powder (I get mine from Twisted Thistle Apothecary)
- 2 cups filtered water
-4 ice cubes
1. Add the kava powder to a blender along with the water. (My golden ratio for kava is 1 part kava to 4 parts water, so adjust accordingly for taste and for number of guests)
2. Blend mixture on high speed for 5 minutes.
3. Strain the mixture with a strainer bag (often used for making nut milk) or cheesecloth by pouring the liquid in the bag over a bowl and squeezing out the liquid. If you don’t have a strainer bag, filter the kava slowly using a fine wire mesh strainer into a bowl. Pour a little kava out at a time and use the back of a spoon to press all the liquid out. This step separates the large particles of kava that you do not want to ingest. You may want to strain the kava a second time through cheesecloth to filter the fine powder for your own desired texture.
4. Place filtered kava liquid in a quart size jar and add 1 rounded teaspoon of Breakaway’s Cold Brew Matcha and 1/3 cup ice.
5. Close the lid of the jar and shake mixture vigorously for 15 seconds.
6. Pour beverage in two glasses and enjoy. (If the taste is too strong, add more water)