If you are like me, a relaxing drink with friends is one of your favourite things to do. However you may also find that as you get older your body is becoming a harsher and harsher mistress to have to deal with when you come home from said drinks. You've probably noticed it's keeping you up much later, scolding you for being irresponsible, violently waking you to continue its scolding early the next morning, and isn't letting you leave the house until well into that afternoon. Two glasses of wine (or as 18-year-old me once used to be able to call it; an appetiser) now sadly costs me half a day in recovery. I have therefore recently found myself wishing there was something with the same relaxed ambience and social lubrication as drinks with friends, without the bodily disputes.
I recently travelled to Adelaide for the Fringe Festival, and we found ourselves out one night and in no hurry to get back to our hotel after our shows. This may have been because our room was approximately the size of a toilet cubicle, had no lock on the inside, and was tucked away at the back of the hotel through several winding corridors from whence, we had theorised earlier, no one would be able to hear any screams. Given this, and the fact that the only information I had about Adelaide came from a movie called Snowtown, we took a walking tour of the city.
It was there, nestled almost unnoticeably amongst a deserted strip of closed Hindley Street shops, that I stumbled upon an unexpected solution to a long-standing problem. I had heard of kava before. It is fairly well publicised for its anaesthetic and sedative effects. Grown in areas of the Pacific, its roots are ground up and used to prepare a drink for traditional ritual purposes. What I didn't realise though, was that there was a kava bar in the middle of Adelaide. We entered the Kava Hut slowly. We had to, as we were immediately immersed in loud reggae music, making it difficult to move in any other manner. We then made our way to the thatch-roofed counter in the middle of the tiny front room where a friendly, relaxed, and smiling owner handed us a menu displaying the different strength brews.
We took an ultimate strength brew each and a game of Connect Four to a couch in a little alcove off the corridor which led out past the counter and into a creatively lit outside courtyard. We didn't end up touching the Connect Four. After a few sips of the bitter brew which regrettably tasted like dirt, the conversation began to flow freely. Without ever feeling intoxicated, we became increasingly chatty, relaxed, and happy. Kava consumption seems to follow a very different timeline to that of alcohol. Rather than getting progressively floppier, groggier, and less coordinated as we drank more, we enjoyed mental clarity, full articulation, and an uncharacteristic verticality whole time. In fact the only clue I ever got to the fact that I was intoxicated came about an hour in, when I realised that I suddenly understood reggae music. When it was time to leave (at about the point of the reggae revelation), we bid the owner a warm farewell and walked in an unexpectedly straight line back to our hotel, without needing to stop for kebabs.
The next day saw us refreshed and with fully functioning central nervous systems and gastrointestinal tracts. Best of all? We did not receive even a single little nag from our ageing bodies.
A lot of time and energy has been put into making the Kava Hut a fun and relaxing place to be. It has paid off. According to the owner and as far as my research could find, it is the only place of its kind in the country. If you are out and about in Adelaide at night and feel like doing something a little bit different without having to pay for it the next day, I strongly recommend checking out it out. My only word of caution is that the affiliation effects for reggae music are of variable onset and length, and you best check back in with your tastes the next day before replacing your entire record collection. Don't ask how I know that.
I'm guessing the kava you get today will be Australian grown.. The reason being it was recently made illegal to import it into the country. Of course this is only the 'official' story, it wouldn't surprise me if none of it is grown in Australia at all.