Judd Rench loves kava. What's that you ask? Kava is the sacred drink made from the roots of the piper methysticum plant found throughout much of the South Pacific that has been enjoyed socially, medicinally, and ceremonially for over 3,000 years. The 30-year-old Rench (above), who most recently worked as a Master Scuba Diver Trainer in Thailand, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Hawaii, loves it so much he decided to open up Bula Kava House, Portland's first "nakamal," or bar devoted to kava.
What's so cool about kava?
Kava causes an overall calming and relaxing intoxication without the mental "fog" experienced from the use of other intoxicants. It is non-alcoholic and non-addictive and doesn't produce a hangover.
What's up with the Bula name?
The name "Bula Kava House" is simply a fun, different thing to call our place. In Vanuatu, the motherland of kava use, a kava bar/house is called a nakamal. The first place I experienced kava was in Hawaii at a place called Nakava, which my co-workers and I referred to as "The Kava Bar."
What's up with opening a Kava House in Portland and so far away from the South Pacific?
Bula Kava House is the only place in Portland that serves traditionally prepared kava. I got the idea to open BKH after enjoying kava in Hawaii. I really enjoyed the way it made me feel, the camaraderie involved while drinking it, and the tradition of it all. I felt that a kava bar could fill a niche in my hometown of Portland by providing an alternative place to socialize than a traditional bar that offers a new, legal, healthy way to get intoxicated, which is something most everybody loves.
Does it give you a good buzz?
Kava can be a good alternative to alcohol because it is still intoxicating yet much safer and more difficult to overdo. Drinking kava makes most people want to socialize, yet you're much less likely to call an ex at 3am.
Why did you pick Division Street to open your biz and do you plan to open more?
Division was chosen because of the great local neighborhood presence and how central it is to most of the Portland metro area. There are also some great complimentary businesses [Bula is in between the upcoming Sunshine Tavern and Whiskey Soda Lounge] just blocks away. I could definitely see expanding once kava gains some local popularity, although at this point I'm focused on doing the first location as well as possible.
What else do you offer besides Kava?
We sell sandwiches made to order, loose leaf teas, Hawaiian style desserts, juices, and coconut water which go nicely with the kava.
· Bula Kava House [Official Site]