Getting to the Root of Happiness: Guide to Kava

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Kava (noun)

            1 :  an Australasian shrubby pepper (Piper methysticum) from whose crushed root an intoxicating beverage is made; also: the beverage made from kava

            2 :  the dried rhizome and roots of the kava used especially as a dietary supplement chiefly to relieve stress and anxiety

Whitney: In July 2014, a brand new business called The Root of Happiness opened up downtown, but I hadn't checked it out until last week. I accepted the invitation of a few friends to learn what this mysterious place was about.

When we entered the bar, an Odesza-inspired station played on the sound system and electric tea lights illuminated the tables in wire lanterns. An intricate mural covered the right wall and on the ceiling a gorgeous cloudy scene was traced in pregnant blues, soft peach, aquamarine. Travis, one of the co-owners, greeted us with a warm smile, drying his hands on a towel. A muted documentary on a famous surfer played on a mounted screen above him. Taking in the energy, it felt like I wasn't in Davis anymore, like I’d crossed an invisible threshold to a different place where deadlines, anxiety about work and school, concerns about my dysfunctional family relationships had the volume turned down.

We took our seats at the bar and ten minutes later, I’d had my first taste of the peaceful pour and savored the sweet pineapple juice. Following the first bowl, I sipped the blended, refreshing concoction. Whether it was the sedative effects of the kava or the delicious pleasure of cold fruit on my tongue, it’s hard to say which part of the experience I enjoyed most. By the time I got to the last drops of whipped cream at the bottom of my glass, I felt full, calm, content. I had taken a chance, tried something new, and was noticeably happier as a result!

Rachel: Speaking as an unadventurous, slightly boring person who drinks decaf tea instead of coffee for fear of becoming addicted to caffeine, I was intrigued when my friend invited me to go with her to The Root of Happiness kava bar in downtown Davis. “What? A bar that serves a kind of relaxing tea? Sign me up!” When I arrived I found out that there are lots of different kinds of kava drinks to order (including yummy looking fruity drinks). I perched myself on one of the little bar stools inside and ordered the recommended tea as a first-timer, a tea that is supposed to be extra strong so the kava will actually affect someone who's never had it before. I was instructed to drink it fast and expect it to be bitter. I was also instructed to not freak out if my lips got numb.

I downed that sucker, perhaps not as fast as I should have because I was staring at the beautiful decor around me, like the 15' x 20' mural by Polynesian artist Te Pou Huke. The perfectly subtle lighting, dreamy mural art, and tropical decorations made me feel like I was in Hawai'i instead of in the Davis study bubble. There were only a handful of people inside, and it was wonderfully peaceful to just sit and chat while enjoying the ethereal music. An introvert's dream. To make a long story short, the tea hit me really hard (probably because I'm a small person); I'm not sure I've ever felt so relaxed and giggly in my life (playing Cards Against Humanity did nothing to help). My advice is, if you're petite like me, just stick to one, since I felt a little nauseous afterward (a side effect of drinking too much, I guess). I don't think that's a normal response, especially since I met a friend who had six or seven drinks! Would I go again? Yes. The great atmosphere of the bar is going to be taken advantage of later when I'm working on finals!

Danielle: Stress, especially before finals and midterms, acts like an annoying roommate you just can’t get rid of, and sleep? Who has time for that? The Root of Happiness is both a great place to study and, on the weekends, a great place to take your mind off studying. The ambiance is incredibly welcoming, the music is always fun to unwind to, and they even have games like giant Jenga or Cards Against Humanity. Besides kava, the bar also serves kombucha and makes tonics made out of herbs including ginseng, rhoidola, and gingko. Kava itself comes from the Western-Pacific plant called kava-kava, which has soothing qualities that produces brain wave changes, allowing for your muscles and mind to relax. Even with kava in your system, your fine motor skills will be completely intact. It will be safe to drive, bike, study, go to class, and just about anything else you do on a regular basis. However, don’t combine it with alcohol.

The Root of Happiness is open 3PM-1AM, located at 211 F Street with a secondary location in Rancho Cordova. It is an 18+ bar.