Chris Allen - Kava Hunter
Periodically, I go hiking in the forests of Hawaii looking for Wild ‘Awa. Like a treasure hunter, it is my dream to find a Kava that has yet to be discovered or classified. On this day, I was hiking in the area of Puna here on the Big Island. This area is known to have ‘Awa so I decided to explore this large area to see if I could find any new varieties.
This is an enormous area and I had to use my compass and GPS to navigate in and out of the forests. As I was going in, I could see a 'Awa Mahakea not too far from where I had parked my four wheel drive. I was excited because I thought, "where there is one ‘Awa there is always more". It’s liking finding a few gold nuggets and knowing the mother lode is nearby.
I kept searching and searching and sadly did not find anything. But I knew from what people told me that this area had a lot of 'Awa at one time and I also knew a lot of it at been stolen by thieves. So I kept hiking deeper and deeper into the forest, firmly convinced that I would find something. My persistence finally paid off. I came across a very large 'Awa Mahakea which I estimated to have at least 250 pounds of root mass. That would be about 50 pounds of processed Kava. So I continued my search and stumbled upon a few more Mahakea. As I have stated in earlier posts, I am on the Task Force that guards these wild ‘Awa so I dutifully recorded the data (GPS, description, etc) and put microchips in everyone. The microchips have helped stop the illegal harvesting of the Hawaiian 'Awa in the state forest reserves and on large areas of private land. While I was there, I took many cuttings and planted dozens of 'Awa Mahakea next to their mother plants.
The next area I entered was a bit different than the first where all the Mahakea were growing. I noticed that the plants were different and there were more Hawaiian plants like the Nau Paka and Kopiko. There was also a lot of Hapuu and Amauu (tree ferns). I kept searching and suddenly I came across this wonderfully green and quiet large 'Awa plant. I have never seen one like this before, it had thick green stalks and short internodes. It had a very different growing pattern than the Mahakea. I searched the area and found 4 more of these ‘Awa patches. I micro chipped them all and took all the information I could and then I took some cuttings. I planted some of the cuttings around that area and I took some home to add to my collection.
This new Kava I named Apu. Once we did some genealogical research on it, we renamed it Papa Kea. I noticed that this kava is a lot stronger than most other Hawaiian kava. Some of my heavy kava drinking friends tried some after I grew it to maturity and they said it was too strong to drink the way they would normally drink it. They had to use more water or less kava. This same Awa is the one that I sell at GHK and that tested at 22 percent of Kavalactones.
This is still one of my favorite 'Awa plants of all time. The place where it grew was an incredible Hawaiian Forest and I will never forget that day as long as I live. I have gone back three years hence to visit the patch of Mahakea and I can joyfully report back that the cuttings are now mature and the plants are doing great.