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Kava Strains: The Hawaiian Edition

Hawaii, like many Polynesian islands, has a long history of using kava—traditionally called “awa” by the native population. This state is home to several strains that even seasoned kava drinkers may not be aware of but are worth exploring. Hawaii boasts 13 strains, all of which are suitable for drinking. This article will profile five of them.


Pronounced “Hee-vuh” this cultivar of kava is also known as “Black Kava” because the stems of this strain are a deep purple. Hiwa has been traditionally reserved for ceremonial use by high priests. Native Hawaiians believe that this strain can open the so-called “head pico”, a center of energy in the body roughly equivalent to the head chakra in eastern medicine. It is supposed to assist high priests in having waking visions and vivid dreams at night and connect them to the spirit world. Consumers report that this strain is both energizing and deeply relaxing at the same time. Its chemotype is 462351 and the total kavalactone content of Hiwa is 11.23 percent.


Nene plants have green stems with dark green spots and one of the names it is called literally means “turtle back” in Hawaiian. The word “Nene” is spoken to Hawaiian children as it is thought to be soothing. It is a quite common strain, and kavalactone content ranges from 6 percent to 11 percent based on the sample taken.


A potent strain, Mahakea has an average kavalactone content of 8 percent. The Mahakea plant produces green stalks and purple internodes and thrives under intense sunlight, even more so than other varieties.


This strain was traditionally reserved for Hawaiian royalty and their families. Along with Hiwa, Mo’i was given as an offering to the gods, along with a black pig. The plant is short, dark, and purple and produces 9 percent kavalactones on average and a chemotype profile of 463251. Its effects have been described as stimulating but mellowing at the same time, while the taste is smooth and buttery, with notes of chocolate.

Papa Kea

Papa Kea is exceptionally strong, boasting a total kavalactone content of 11.6 percent and a chemotype profile of 462351. It produces an earthy or woody taste without an excess of bitterness often found with other kava strains. Like Hanakapi’ai, it can be difficult to find as it is a rare strain. Papa kea plants grow squat, rarely reaching a height of five feet.

Come to Ohana Kava Bar in Colorado Springs

Fortunately, you do not have to fly in a cramped airliner for hours to Hawaii to sample what this wonderful group of islands has to offer. Ohana Kava Bar has two locations in Colorado Springs, one downtown and another on North Academy Boulevard. Ask the owner Matt Clark if he has any Hawaiian kava strains in stock. Happy drinking!