A flurry of activity at 261 East 10th Street last week signaled the arrival of Kavasutra, a 10-seat bar serving tea made with kava root, which promises relaxation without the incapacitating properties of alcohol or the mental fuzziness of marijuana. “The kava root is dried, ground and mixed with water. The result is a relaxing and euphoria drink that elevates the senses and has a number of wonderful health benefits,” says the Kavasutra website.
Owner Dylan Harrison is pretty frank about where the bar’s priorities lie. “Our kava tea is 100-percent natural and organic, but we don’t really care about that,” he said. “Unlike most products in the city that say they’re organic. I think they’re full of shit.”
So what does Kavasutra offer other that an organic teashop doesn’t? It’s the special properties of “the intoxicating pepper,” said Harrison. It’s “good, effective kava” that has made his five other kava bars, three in Florida, one in Denver (all named Kavasutra) a success.
“New York talks big shit like they have everything,” but Kavasutra will be the first kava bar in NYC, Harrison said, and indeed a Google search indicated this is likely true. He said there are only about 20 in the country; he’s surprised New York City hasn’t embraced kava yet but said the East Village feels like an ideal place to start. “I believe it’s going to do very well here,” he said. “This neighborhood is awesome.”
So how does kava work? According to Harrison, it works on the gaba receptor of the brain, which he said is the same receptor that produces the calming effect of valium. He says it’s safer than other drugs like alcohol because it doesn’t mess with your mental faculties—it’s more of a body high. “You won’t get physical,” he said. “You won’t fight, you won’t get loud or stupid.” (He says he would never sell alcohol with kava because the combination tends to upset the stomach). You may get off your bar stool and fall down after drinking kava, but you’ll remember the entire experience, he said.
Much like marijuana dispensaries, Kavasutra will offer different kinds of kava hailing from all over the world, each promising a slightly different effect. “Some make you feel more stimulated; some make you feel sedated,” he said.
Because there are currently no regulations on kava in the United States, Kavasutra can operate with no age limit and closing time, Harrison said, though they won’t serve to people under 18 unless accompanied by their parents.
Harrison’s team of about half a dozen collaborators started working on the empty storefront early last week. He’s hoping for a remarkably speedy turnaround, planning to be on a plane back home by Wednesday with the grand opening happening without him Friday.