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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Kava: A magic potion for relaxation

Rooted in Sanity pioneers kava in City of Madison
Maria Brunetta
Rooted in Sanity’s “Kava Mule.” April 23, 2024.

Finding ways to destress can be hard — you can try yoga, going for a walk or meditation — but sometimes there’s a desire for a magic little potion that could chill you out without any unwanted effects. Kava at Rooted In Sanity may be the place for that.

Rooted in Sanity, Madison’s first kava Bar, opened at 2007 Atwood Avenue at the start of 2024.

Owner Hannah Saxman is no novice to the Madison wellness space. She owns SolEscape Healing Arts, a community-based wellness center committed to bringing therapy, relaxation, balance and wellness for the whole soul according to their website.


SolEscape Healing Arts location on Atwood was replaced by the kava bar, though one massage therapist remains, along with a salt room.

Rooted in Sanity is just like a normal coffee shop and serves coffee, tea, mocktails, cacao and kava.

Kava Kava — commonly known as kava — is a tropical root used to make a non-addictive psychoactive tea that offers a mellow, legal high.

According to the National Institutes of Health, kava kava has a mild anxiety-reducing effect. There has been a fair amount of studies done about the effects of kava on anxiety, though not on other conditions.

Kava is native to the Pacific Islands and has a long history of use for medical ceremonies. Traditionally, people would take its root and make it into a paste that’s mixed with water or coconut milk to make a drink.

Anyone can purchase kava — including at Whole Foods — in different forms like powders, capsules, tinctures or teas.

Though there are no side effects usually, especially when drunk in small quantities when it’s very strong, it’s recommended to stay at home and not drive.

In 2018, Rolling Stones reported kava was the all-natural high that’s sweeping America, though it was only in a handful of states like New York, California and Florida.

Now it’s gaining popularity in Wisconsin. In the state, there’s one other kava bar in Milwaukee, Moai Kava Bar and Herb Shop.

Before visiting Rooted in Sanity, I was familiar with kava having tried a tincture in the past.

But I had never gone to a kava bar, though I had seen many during my visits to Florida, which is home to St. Petersburg, a city considered the Kava capital of the U.S.

Madison’s cafe is a beautiful spot, located in the vibrant area of Atwood Avenue, with Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace next door and Bar Corallini down the street. But inside the energy and decorations emulated the relaxed feeling you get from kava.

The decorations were inspired from nature with mushroom lamps, plants hanging from the ceilings and images of nature all around.

I tried a kava mocktail, called Kava Mule. Like a Moscow Mule, it had ginger beer and lime juice along with some cucumber and of course, kava. It was a refreshing, citrusy drink that masked the pungent taste of kava.

The drink came in a fun tiki glass, garnished with cucumber, lime and an umbrella.

My partner ordered a four-ounce traditional brew kava shell for $5. This was kava in its pure form with nothing mixed in so it’s a good way to experience the actual flavor. Kava shells can also be ordered in eight ounces or in a 22 ounce karaf, which is great for sharing.

Kava has an earthy flavor and the texture stays on your tongue, after about a minute, you can already feel your mouth getting numb, a common experience with kava.

Then after a few minutes, it feels like your body takes a deep breath and relaxes.

Naturally, I am an anxious person who always looks for something that will help calm me down — this made me feel relaxed and a little giggly.

The only downside was that after the effects wore off, I felt very groggy. If I were to have kava again, I would probably have it at night, like an actual cocktail, to help me relax and fall asleep faster — but I probably wouldn’t go mid-day. Regardless, both drinks were refreshing and relaxing and the atmosphere added to that vibe.

I visited on a Sunday afternoon and the location was filled with people hanging out having kava mocktails, kava shells and other drinks.

In a society that’s increasingly choosing alcohol alternatives, kava seems to fit right in.

Saxman told the Cap Times it’s filling a niche, like nonalcoholic bars, helping people with anxiety and stress.

“We’re on the forefront of these things, with the mocktails and tea,” Saxman said.

Beyond kava, Rooted In Sanity offers drinks with adaptogenic mushrooms, coffee and coffee alternatives with dandelion root, classics like cappuccino and mochas and teas. They also offer kava in a can and kava pouches.

Adaptogenic mushrooms help your body respond to stress and anxiety as well as contributing to overall wellbeing. A perfect complement to kava, if you’re looking for relaxation without the psychoactive effect.

One drink I’d be curious to try is their Rooted Coffee alternative, which has dandelion root, chicory cacao, turmeric, lion’s mane, chaga cordyceps and reishi. Lions mane and reishi are both adaptogenic mushrooms and dandelion root is a popular coffee alternative.

They also offer a little library so people can borrow a book, relax and sip on their drink of choice.

Rooted in Sanity is open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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