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Morgan Jaros’ Kava Bar aims to acquaint Minneapolis with kava

Jaros touts kava, an edible root that can be mixed into drinks, as a healthy alcohol-alternative and has begun serving it at the Plant Based Pop-Up Market.
Image by Ray Shehadeh
Kava Bar Mpls Founder Morgan Jaros poses for a portrait at the Kava Bar pop up at Puris Foods in Minneapolis on Sunday, July 10.

On Sunday, June 27, on a patio near Lake Nokomis, Morgan Jaros, founder of Kava Bar Mpls, is the embodiment of calm as she rises to greet me in a flowing tunic dress. We’re here to talk about kava, the beverage behind her business.

Kava originated in the South Pacific centuries ago. Derived from the root of a pepper plant, kava is usually consumed once ground down to a fine powder, strained and mixed with water. Unsurprisingly, kava tastes peppery but that pepperiness can vary based on both the variety and age of the plant.

When consumed, it has a numbing, slightly tingling effect on the mouth, similar to that of alcohol, but without the intoxication element. While available medical research regarding kava’s impact on mood disorders, like general anxiety disorder, is slim, a 2019 Australian clinical trial found a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms when participants consumed kava.

“I have always been interested in food and nutrition and the idea of healing my body with food rather than medicine — taking away versus adding,” Jaros said of her personal interest in the wellness industry. “When I found kava, it all sort of clicked for me.”

Kava Bar Mpls Founder Morgan Jaros makes a drink at the Kava Bar pop up at Puris Foods in Minneapolis on Sunday, July 10. (Ray Shehadeh)

Jaros first discovered kava on a trip to Jacksonville, Florida in June 2021 while visiting a friend. At the beginning of Jaros’ trip, her friend invited her to a bar in town. Jaros, who is sober, was initially hesitant to accept the invitation. After some convincing, she accepted the invite and ended up stepping foot into the place that would ignite her passion for kava — Wildcrafters, a booze-free bar serving tea and kava.

“I was blown away. It was such a magical moment. It was very lively with jazz music, people, beautiful drinks and glassware,” Jaros described the night. “This felt like an environment that I’d been missing for a long time.”

She spent the next two weeks of her trip driving around Florida in pursuit of other kava bars, the state being home to over 75 of them. Upon returning home, Jaros dedicated her free time to researching and learning as much as possible about kava.

Her next brush with kava was at the Suwannee Hulaween music festival in Florida, a couple of months after that first encounter. At the festival, Jaros worked alongside Wildcrafters’ Yhang Quintero to serve thousands of people the beverage out of coolers and tents.

Upon returning home, Jaros got to work on Kava Bar Mpls — the first and only kava bar in Minnesota. While her background is rooted in finance, an industry that occupies her typical 9-5, Kava Bar Mpls is her passion project.

For now, find Kava Bar Mpls at the Plant Based Pop-Up Market at Puris Foods on the second and fourth Sunday of every month. Jaros serves kava from her tent on a pay-what-you-can basis, a method she hopes will allow for greater accessibility when it comes to sharing the beverage with those who haven’t tried before.

Kava Bar Mpls customers wait for their food and drinks at the Kava Bar pop up at Puris Foods in Minneapolis on Sunday, July 10. (Ray Shehadeh)

Jaros has to import kava from outside sources because a wide amount of the varieties are found in the South Pacific. In order to offset the import process, Jaros conjures up one uniquely crafted drink per event using locally sourced ingredients. Past varieties have included the “Kava Greenie” (inspired by the famous Tony Jaros beverage, to whom she is distantly related), and her most recent creation, the “Calendula Kava” (calendula, hibiscus, lemon with locally sourced cherries and maple syrup).

“What’s such a treat about Morgan’s kava is that it’s so well-balanced and different every time,” Liz McAllister, a fellow vendor at the pop-up market, said. “Kava is this heady mixture of a buzz and a bit of mellowness — sort of like if CBD and caffeine had a baby, but better.”

Jaros ended up serving at the Plant Based Pop-Up Market by way of Heather Klein, owner of Root to Rise Kitchen.

“I was working with kava myself, and then someone told me about Morgan. She fit really well,” Klein said. Klein and Jaros are currently working on other projects together that could combine their respective passions into something beyond the pop-up markets.

“In this particular community, people are really open, enthusiastic and looking for new things that might be an alternative to the traditional way of being,” Jaros said regarding the plant-based community in the Twin Cities.

While kava fits well enough where she’s currently at, Jaros hopes kava will catch on in the community as an alcohol alternative.

“Throughout my life, I’ve had all of these creative projects that I’ve mostly joined in on. Helping a friend with the beginnings of a movie script in San Francisco, started a company — there’s been many times I’ve fallen in love with something and not done it,” Jaros said.

This time around is different, as she feels kava is not only good for her own recovery process but necessary to share with the community. And while a a brick-and-mortar location may be on the horizon in the near future, Jaros is determined to stay focused on the driving force behind her business — her passion for the plant.

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