The Kali Kava™ Story

Kali Kava Kali-Hiwa™ Green Stripe kava plants growing in California

Kali Kava™ started in 2014 as a few kava cuttings in a greenhouse in Sacramento, Northern California. Although it is well outside of the tropics, the Sacramento region has a richly developed kava culture thanks to a vibrant Pacific Island population and the successful Root of Happiness Kava Bars taking hold in the region since 2012. Customers soon became accustomed to the wide variety of high potency specialty cultivars and especially the fresh green kava that was served in the Kava bars daily, we certainly did.

Following Cyclone Pam in 2014, the South Pacific’s kava industry suffered tremendously with shortages of supply, reduced cultivar availability, lower quality exports all combined with steep price increases. In the following years it was apparent that the demand for high quality kava and the new price that it fetched, was not going to slow any time soon and the politics of the South Pacific were cumbersome to the goal of the market’s recovery. After speaking to Kava Bar owners and dietary supplement manufacturers, the dream of a high quality, sustainable supply of domestically grown kava was born.

In 2014, Kali Kava™ began acquiring Kava cuttings from farmers, Kava nurseries, research stations, and private collectors to conduct extensive research on the various cultivars, their chemotypes, growing conditions, pest susceptibility and unique requirements. By 2016, strong candidates were chosen on the basis of vigor, cold hardiness, and pest resistance. 25 cuttings from these varieties were moved from the climate controlled greenhouse and grown in the ground, outside in May 2016.

It was ugly at first. Many fell prey to sub 60F nights, spider mites, white flies, and transplant shock. The survivors were left outside until September when the cold nights got into the mid 50’s. They were left outside until only 3 survivors of each variety remained. They we’re dug up, placed back into pots and brought into the greenhouse for re-acclimation. Some stayed forever dwarfed, others died. Of the remaining plants, cuttings were made, and the same process was repeated in 2017.

The 2017 season plants were brought outdoors earlier, adapted better, and grew into larger plants than their 2016 parents. They were brought into the greenhouse later in the season and survived lower temperatures than expected. By the 2018, the cuttings from these outdoor varieties began to take on a different morphology than the original mother plants. These cuttings were yet again put out earlier and taken in later. At this point these varieties were surviving the low 40’s in early April, and in a few months were also surviving the 115F June and July temperatures of Northern California. They also survived the low 40’s of mid-October just a few months later.

At the end of the 2018 season, it was decided that tissue culture would be a much more efficient process of selecting the plants with the traits we were looking for, and we contracted with a Northern California tissue culture expert who primarily dealt with Cannabis, but agreed to take on the project out of sheer curiosity. Within a year, we had 2,000 plants to work with for the outdoor growing season which were already artificially chilled while in tissue culture. They were grown outdoor for the 2019 season and the strongest survivors were selected. Kali Kava™ now has over 20 stress tolerant cultivars in its repertoire with multiple contract farms across Southern California and Southern Florida. We're writing history. 

Kali-Kava™ is proud to pioneer The American Kava growing industry with the goal of making America an origin for the worlds highest quality kava.