We didn’t know we needed it until it got here: For those in search of a refreshing alternative to their current social scene, grab a friend and share a kava shell at sPACYcLOUd, D.C.’s only kava bar/streetwear store/skate shop.
The shop, located in Adams Morgan, has been serving up kava for the last year, where customers can crack open a coconut or sip on a kava cocktail paired with Polynesian-inspired plant-based cuisine.
If not familiar already, kava — Latin name Piper methysticum, in case you are headed to trivia night — is a non-addictive, medicinal South Pacific plant species belonging to the pepper family. Kava, also known as asava pepper or intoxicating pepper, is usually enjoyed as a drink after the roots are submerged in coconut milk or water. Fans of the beverage say it produces a state of calm and relaxation. Pacific tribal societies also value Kava for its healing properties with anxiety, depression, insomnia, menopause and more ailments.
How it is prepared? Kava drinks are produced by grinding the root into a powder, soaking it in water and subsequently filtering it. What remains is a murky brown liquid with an earthy aroma and taste, often served with fruit, such as pineapple or berries, to counterbalance the bitter taste, says Tatiana Kolina, sPACYcLOUd’s owner.
Coupled with its favorable physical and psychological effects, kava is seen as a healthier alternative to alcohol and caffeine for its ability to produce euphoria and relaxation without affecting mental clarity, she says.
“Kava is considered a communal herbal drink which helps to bring people together, build communities and celebrate life,” she says. “We wanted to provide a non-alcohol, friendly environment for adults while also celebrating the culture and tradition that surrounds kava.”
But colorful drink combinations aren’t the only things patrons will notice when they walk in the front door. Eclectic paintings, drawings, clothing, skateboards and other artwork can be found scattered across the shop. Kolina wanted to create a pleasant social meeting ground with comfortable seating, relaxing lighting and an abundance of live music and events for patrons, she says. Inspiration for the decor stemmed from her many travels across the U.S. and abroad, including “San Francisco, LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Barcelona, Berlin, Tokyo, and many others,” she adds.
“My goal was to create a space where everyone can feel at home. I was also inspired by skateboard culture as well as the ’70s music scene, including Woodstock and the Flower Children of the San Francisco era,” she says.
And, the shop offers a truly authentic and “relaxing” experience, from its decor and ambiance, down to the pineapple chunks placed in each bowl of kava squeezed fresh daily. There are also fresh hemp products, herbal teas, in-house brewed kombucha/mocktails, longboarding/skateboarding products, original apparel and more for sale.
To adapt to local tastes, sPACYcLOUd even serves several kava cocktails and shots, including a coconut flavor mixed with cream that is sweet, with a hint of spice.
Customers should also know there are different strengths of kava.
“We use medium grind kava root — strengths from 4 percent kavalactone content to up to 15 percent — and strengths depend on preparation techniques,” Kolina says.
And, every kava shot or bowl needs some good grub to pair it with. The menu at sPACYcLOUd is mainly plant based, with various gluten-free, nut-free and soy-free options.
“I had a vision and wanted to explore vegetarian dishes using Eastern European and American traditional cuisines,” Kolina says. “Our most popular items are an Eastern European hotdog with sauerkraut, our Kava tea, CBD products and beverages made with in-house brewed kombucha. We also introduced three new CBD-infused teas to our menu, chamomile, hibiscus and turmeric.”
When asked how locals have received the kava bar, which is one of the first to open in the area, Kolina says, “We have had very positive experiences. And, most people who walk off the street and wander into our shop are very open to the kava bar and once they try it, they end up liking it. It’s just been really great to be here in the community.”