The world of kava is a fascinating one, and there are many people who have been drawn to it for different reasons. In an interview with Kenn, one of the co-founders of Grassroots Kava, we learn about his journey into working with kava, the community behind it, and what he loves most about it, but first we’ll share a little bit about Kava, how it is prepared, and how it is typically consumed.
Kava is a non-alcoholic beverage made from the roots of the kava plant, which is native to the South Pacific Islands. Traditionally it is prepared by grinding the kava roots into a fine powder and then mixing it with water to create a thick, milky-like consistency. The active ingredients in kava are called kavalactones, which are known to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety, which is why it is considered an adaptogen, or functional food. Kava has been used for centuries by the islanders for social ceremonies and religious purposes, as well as for medicinal benefits.
To consume kava, it is poured into a communal bowl called a tanoa, and the participants use coconut or bamboo cups to drink it. In some cultures, it is customary to clap before and after consuming kava as a sign of respect. Many kava bars and cafes serve it in the form of shots or cocktails, mixed with different flavors to enhance the taste. Kava is known for its calming effects, and it is often consumed in social gatherings to promote relaxation and a sense of community.
For Kenn, it all started over 21 years ago when he met someone from the South Pacific who wanted to open the first Kava bar in North America. Shortly after, he and Kenn opened “The Nak” in Boca Raton, Florida. Kenn started volunteering there to make kava and eventually became the manager. He also built a website and developed an online presence for the brand, which back in the day, before everything was digital, was a huge step forward. He then got a job offer to run Bula Kafe in St.Pete, which was the first kava bar in Pinellas County, and he worked there for 8 years.
Fast forward, Kenn met Ryan and Gravy, his co-founders, at Bula, and through their mutual love for kava they opened Grassroots, which now has 3 locations in Florida. Kenn’s love for kava runs deep, and can be seen in his left forearm tattoo. He shared that it represents the KAVAIN molecule, one of the six major active compounds in kava. He picked that compound because it's most known for its relaxing effects, which if you’ve ever met Kenn, you know truly resonates with his vibe and way of life.
He also added that his love for kava has a lot to do with community, and that it’s such an integral part of the culture. He shared that the kava bars that are most successful are the ones that create a special experience that fosters a solid community, and the vibes at every Grassroots Kava, do just that.
Some of Kenn’s favorite memories are from the very beginnings of making kava and getting people to experience the brew for the very first time. He loves the sense of wonder that comes from exploring something new, and he feels grateful that he gets to do something he loves every single day and share the unique experience of kava with others.
Interestingly enough, while we were interviewing him, one of the people sitting close to us overheard our conversation and shared “Kenn will literally take the shirt off his back. Grassroots has done so much for the community here, not only in St.Pete but in Tampa Bay.”
Kenn’s journey into the world of kava and his business success with Grassroots is a testament to the power of community and doing what you love. His advice to surround yourself with smarter, empathetic, and compassionate people is a great reminder that success is not only measured financially but also by the connections and friendships we make along the way.
The Grassroots team have created a truly special space at Grassroots Kava, and they always encourage everyone to come and share the experience of kava with a friend! So if you're ever in St.Pete or Tampa, make sure to stop by Grassroots Kava and experience it for yourself!