MeloMelo is the first to bring Kava to the Bay Area!
We're excited to bring you the Bay's first nakamal, or Kava bar! Kava is an ancient beverage from the South Pacific made from the roots of the Kava Kava plant Piper methysticum. The traditional beverage has been consumed in that part of the world for thousands of years and we're happy to be the first to bring it here!
What is Kava?
First and foremost, Kava is a plant. Specifically, it is the name of the beverage made from the root of the plant Piper methysticum, a close relative of Piper nigrum or Black Pepper. The name Kava is given to this beverage by the people of Vanuatu, commonly believed to be the architects of this plant. Vanuwhat?! Think of Vanuatu as a set of islands that Fijians might plan their family vacation to. These islands are about 750 miles west of Fiji, or about the distance between San Francisco and Tijuana (though I imagine the sailing trip to be a little more exciting!). We source most of our kava from Vanuatu because the kava roots and tradition are older, and therefore the product, in this case through selection, is superior. Although the exact origin of the plant is as of yet unknown, it is believed to be an artificial selection of another member of the Piper genus, Piper wichmanii.
Kava, has many names reflecting the many languages in the South Pacific. The Hawaiians referred to it as ‘awa, or ‘awa-‘awa. In Samoa it is referred to as ava, and yaqona in Fiji. Because it spread so slowly, and due to lack of cell phone reception two thousand years ago, different islands have adopted kava for different reasons: ceremonial, recreational, spiritual, medicinal, political, and cultural. It's also because of this slow spread that kava actually has a different name, depending on which island you float to. Regardless what it was called, the plant and beverage it was named for had the same reverence and respect: a root of peace and friendship. But let's be honest- much like anything good for you, it doesn't taste all that great.
Why drink it? Why have islanders in the Pacific been consuming it for over 3000 years?
Well, for one thing, we all seek new experiences- especially when it turns out those new experiences make you feel great!
It might have taken a little longer for kava to float over to the Bay, but why is the Bay Area adopting kava? We elect to recreate this long lost art of community. We are but one tribe in a very, very big village. We are here to learn from tradition, and in turn, create our own. Whatever your reason to consume kava, whether it a be socially driven desire, to help reduce anxiety, for better sleep, to try a new experience, or even just as a more positive alternative to your day to day (or night by night) lifestyle- we say Welcome!
On the islands, we don't say "cheers", we say BULA. Just like that, all caps. And to you, reader, for getting this far and not losing too much focus, I say BULA!
(We are proud to have partnered with and feature Kava certified "Noble" and meets all UN Codex requirements by True Kava. Be sure you always ask about your Kava, the varietal, root ratio, and testing! See our footer for more information)
So a Palestinian, a Canadian, and a Colombian open a bar - no really - and decided to serve up some Polynesian culture. There's no punchline; we call it MeloMelo Kava Bar named after a noble varietal of kava from the island of Ambae in Vanuatu.
Rami, Nico, and Anneliese were all friends living in South Florida. When it came down to it, we were just all in search of something new. Accustomed to the night life and scene in bright and ritzy South Florida, we all knew it was time for a change. After years of enjoying kava at the local kava bar, making friends, and finding limited use for our vague and varying college degrees, we decided to move forward with something we all enjoyed in life: Kava.
We founded MeloMelo as an idea for change, and a future. We scoped out prospective markets which we felt would adopt kava in a very positive way. We had all heard and in some way experienced the Northern California Coast and decided to settle and call it home. We instantly fell in love with the place, people, and the famous California laid-back approach. Kava made sense in Berkeley for all the right reasons. With its history as a leader in innovation, and an affinity for trying new things, we felt that Berkeley would be a perfect fit and we've bet all of our careers on it. We thought this would be a perfect place to start and wondered how kava might have just missed this bit of paradise.
We hope you come to enjoy our vision as much as we do. BULA!
1701 University Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94703
Chemistry of Kava
The Chemistry can be a touch overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Here's what you should know:
The mild psychoactive (think caffeine - but quite the opposite!) ingredients found in kava are called kavalactones. There are 18 different kavalactones in kava that we know of which help provide that subtle psychoactive positivity. Of these, six constitute approximately 95% of the extract derived from the rootstock. The exact mechanism of action is postulated to enhance ligand-binding to gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) and reduced re-uptake of norepinephrine (fight or flight hormone)  to name a few. This is responsible for the calming and relaxing properties of kava. Numerous clinical studies have shown kava to be a strong anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and antidepressant in treating people with low to moderate general anxiety disorders *. Every different type of kava plant however, can give different effects, and this has to do with the kavalactone concentrations present in the specific type of kava.
The six most commonly attributed active ingredients are as follows: 1 Demethoxy-yangonin (DMY), 2 dihydrokavain (DHY), 3 yangonin (Y), 4 kavain (K), 5 dihydromethysticin (DHM), 6 methysticin (D).
Now I'm sure this all sounds like fun! But why does it even matter?
Well, one thing you should know is that kava is asexual and produces no seeds. Therefore the many varietals of kavas that exist today are based exclusively on farmer selection over the past couple thousand years. In other words, they copied the kava plants that made them feel the best, and didn't bother growing the rest. This is one way to distinguish between "noble" kava and other types of kava. It is because of this kava cloning that researchers today, aside from morphological characteristics, can distinguish between "Melomelo" from Ambae Island and "Kaolik" from Tanna. Each of these is identified mainly by the balance of those six funny little ingredients we are talking about.
Each of these particular kavas, including "Melomelo", has what's known as a specific chemotype. It's like looking at a nutritional label for kava; the ingredients are listed in order of content. In the world of kava, the chemotype can be listed for example: 1,2,3,4,5,6. In this case, the kava has a highest percentage of 1 Demethoxy-yangonin, and the least amount of 6 Methysticin. Every noble kava has its defined mix.
What's interesting about kava is the synergistic value of these ingredients. Scientists have isolated most of these kavalactones, and when consumed independently, the resulting "effect", no matter the dose, will never be as good as finding the right combination of these six ingredients.
Some kavas grown in Hawaii and Fiji tend to be a little richer in (5) Dihydromethysticin, and some in Vanuatu have a higher concentration of (4) Kavain. This matters for a couple of reasons (5) might make you feel a little better, but you might also feel a little full and funny. In this authors mind, kavas that typically have a higher concentration of (4) leave you more relaxed, without that "heavy" feeling. The kavas that have a higher concentration (4) can more typically be found in Vanuatu, our main source of kava. It is obvious then that some combinations are more desirable than others, and our partnership with the growers in Vanuatu have enabled us to provide you with nothing but the best noble cultivars.