On our recent travels to Vanuatu, we were put in touch with Cameron McLeod from Australia Kava Shop. Cam was formerly a long-term resident of Vanuatu – residing there for 15 years and working in the kava industry for most of that time. We chatted about how Kava has expanded worldwide and, most recently, in Australia. Australia has banned kava since 2007, but in 2022, they allowed kava to be imported and sold as food under an import system.
Buying Kava in Australia
Cam mentioned that since the ban had been lifted, there has been a flood of kava into Australia. Amongst a sea of sellers and products, there now appears to be some clear leaders in the field that are doing the right thing by kava in Australia. Australia Kava Shop and some of the other front runners are abiding by the following key tenants of selling kava:
- Testing all their kava before importing to determine:
- Noble Variety
- Moisture Content
- Making sure that HACCAP packing is used for all products repackaged in Australia.
- Making information about kava in Australia available to kava newbies in Australia
- Giving back to South Pacific Charities.
Cam was passionate about the Charity component. Australia Kava Shop runs a program called Shells for Boards. Cam was a founding member of the Vanuatu Surfing Association, so they donate $1 for every Kg of Kaa sold to the VSA to help with board and community programs.
Value-added kava products in Australia
Unfortunately, under the new Australian laws, kava cannot be used as an ingredient in food. That means that products like Kava Cola (that Cam was involved in – see below video), Kava Chocolate, and other Kava products like we have in the US are unavailable. There is hope that the Australian government will change its position when the current laws are revised in 2024.
Kava Bars in Australia
Unlike in the USA, Australia hasn’t yet created a burgeoning kava bar scene. Cam mentioned a few are around, but it hasn’t taken off yet. However, he wants Australia Kava Shop wants to be at the forefront of it. Currently, he is working with an investment group looking to roll out a trial kava bar on the Gold Coast of Australia, intending to expand once successful.
The Future of Kava in Australia
It’s easy to forget that kava in the USA in 2002 consisted of 1 kava bar and only 3 or 4 vendors of real kava. Fast forward to now; there are over 300 kava bars and endless vendors… Nobody is as good as Coral Sea Kava, “wink wink”, but there are lots of us! Cam said he hoped to see Australia grow comparatively just like the USA. We certainly hope so, as this will mean more money in the hands of the Pacific Islands, and more kava can only make the world a better place!