King Kava: A Savage Journey into the Dark Heart of Brooklyn's Alt. Beverage Industry
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2012: The streets are overrun with alternative beverages. Normative modes of thirst quenching have been abolished. Dasani ingestion is a criminal offense. To be heard uttering the word "Aquafina" is to risk having your hands cut off and your tongue extracted with a pair of red-hot pincers. Frost encrusted refrigerator chests overflow with the malevolent juices of mangosteen and goji berry and nobody is safe from roving gangs of maté and kombucha dealers who will stop at nothing to maintain their beverage monopolies. Amidst turf wars and bloodshed one company dared to introduce a new drink, a drink they arrogantly claim will "change the game." That drink is Kava. Often called the heroin of the South Pacific, Kava will soon echo through Williamsburg's collective unconscious like the reduplicative cries of a sex crime victim in the corridors of our most haunting nightmares. Kavaaah! Kavahhh! I called the manufacturers of King Kava for some answers.
VICE: I hear there is a lot of casting couch mentality in the beverage industry. One hand washes the other, if you know what I mean...
King Kava: Like sexual favors?
You said it, not me.
I don’t think that is the case. That has not been my experience thus far.
There are a lot desperate people out there vying for a write up on BevNet, Grady’s has Condé Nast on lockdown, and you came to me because you want a piece of the media pie, correct?
Actually you came to me, but I do appreciate the opportunity to talk about King Kava.
I'm feeling pretty fucked up. Inebriated, vulnerable, impaired in my judgment. Right now if someone came at me looking for sex I honestly don’t know if I could stop them.
Wow! How many bottles of King Kava did you drink? That’s certainly an unusual response.
Enough chitchat. What is your target demographic, racially speaking?
I think King Kava's relaxing effects give it a pretty broad appeal. We want to reach as many people as possible so that they can enjoy the benefits of a tasty bottle of Kava after a stressful day in NYC.
Do you discriminate against anyone?
No, absolutely not. Anyone is welcome to enjoy a cool, zesty bottle of organic King Kava.
What about rapists and other sex offenders?
As far as I know there are no restrictions on what beverages a sex offender can consume. That said, I would prefer King Kava be consumed by people who are socially responsible and at peace with themselves.
Earlier you were saying that you would “do anything” to make it in the beverage industry. Does this include assassinating the husband and wife team behind Brooklyn Kombucha?
Haha, I don't remember saying that.
It’s funny how memory works. The way you describe the beverage industry in Brooklyn makes it sound lawless, brother killing brother for a single drop of coconut water, am I correct?
It's actually the exact opposite. King Kava only exists because of people within the Brooklyn beverage industry giving cofounder Ben Berdan and myself advice on how to get started. We make our tea at the Organic Food Incubator in L.I.C., and I only know about the space because the founder of Plan Tea told me about it. Almost everything I know about the beverage industry I learned from someone at a beverage company nice enough to give me free advice.
Everything has a price. Do you ever feel like your phones are tapped or your apartment is bugged by the Grady's Cold Brew people?
What? No, definitely not. That has not been a concern.
Have you seen the new sparkling maté put out by Guayaki? The art deco font, the narrow can, do you think these guys are fucking around? Do you think anyone would notice or care if you were gavaged with chia seeds and left in front of the McKibbin Lofts to die of gastrointestinal perforation?
I don’t think Guayaki considers King Kava a competitor; our company is too small. I am always a bit nervous that a big national brand like G.T. Dave or Honest Tea will start a kava line and make it harder for us to succeed. Thus far, we are very lucky to be the only kava based drink in New York.
Oh please, every Brooklynite who dares to concoct an alt. beverage is a competitor. Save the bullshit for BevNet. You want it all; the cooler at General Store, Kim’s, the health food stores on Bedford. You thought I was going to play softball?
I’m unsure how to respond, I would like the cooler at General Store. You are right about that.
I've read that Kava Kava is a slang term for 1,4-butandiol, why is that?
Hmmm, I was not aware that it was. One of Kava's defining characteristics is the lucidity and mental sharpness that accompanies its relaxing properties, so maybe it has some superficial similarities with GHB or 1,4-Butanediol.
I'm not familiar with GHB, what kind of acts are commonly associated with it?
I've heard it can be used as a treatment for narcolepsy, but I am not an expert on GHB.
When I went to buy King Kava at Hope Deli on Havemeyer Street the cashier looked at me like I was buying a bottle of chloroform, a rag, and a bundle of nylon cord. Why was that?
Actually we were having some problems with Hope Deli. They complained that King Kava was not selling fast enough. Maybe they were intimidating customers. I hope not.
Oh, hold on one sec! I'm getting a phone call. Let me get this. Hello? Hi, OK. Yes, I'll tell him, talk soon. That was the people from Bragg's Apple Cider, they say you don't have what it takes to be a player in the alt. beverage game. They said you don't want it bad enough.
Well, if the owners of Bragg's Apple Cider really did just call you to say I don't have what it takes, I would have to say in response that I am very committed. I have put my heart and soul into King Kava, sourcing the highest quality Kava root, perfecting the brewing technique in order to give a delicate flavor with a high concentration of kavalactones. I've invested both my money and my dreams in this business.
That's a very beautiful story, Nick. Pardon me while I dab the organic agave nectar tears from my cheek. You've got balls the size of unshelled cacao beans, you know that? God, if I had a Fare Trade Açaí berry for every time an alt. beverage entrepreneur lied to me I would be a very healthy man.
I don't know what to say. Everyone has to start somewhere, even G.T. Dave started small.
What do you really know about G.T.?
I have never met or talked to him. I have heard he is a nice guy though.
If G.T. overdosed on spirulina and was aspirating on his own vomit, would you turn him on his side or would you silently watch him die?
Without question I would attempt to save him! Wouldn't you?
I'm not the one who would "do anything" to make it in the alt. beverage industry. This isn't about me.
I am pretty confident I never said that.
King Kava is an artisanal relaxation drink based on the traditional kava teas that have been consumed in the South Pacific for thousands of years. Each bottle is hand produced in Long Island City. King Kava is certified organic by the USDA and available in two flavors: Mint Lemon and Ginger Citrus. It is sold at over 30 stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan including Forager's Market in Dumbo, Spacemarket in Noho, and Mr. Pina in Williamsburg.