All photos by Angela Altus for Bushwick Daily

Kava is sweeping the neighborhood! As you may have read in a previous post, kava is a ceremonial drink from the Polynesian Islands that has been steadily gaining popularity in the US via kava cafes (perhaps you’ve noticed the arrival of the chain Kavasutra). Kava has relaxing and sedative affects, arguably comparable to alcohol but without the impaired judgement and lack of lucidity.

Brooklyn’s first kava bar, Brooklyn Kava, opened this winter at 191 Suydam St about a week before the opening of House of Kava. Owners Harding Stowe and Nick Haycock are not strangers to the business: Haycock has worked in kava distribution since 2012, supplying kava that could be brewed at home to stores such as Whole Foods.

Their new location is part cafe (featuring a coffee menu made with Counter Culture coffee) and part bar, with kava cocktails and kombucha on tap. Kava by itself has an earthy, bitter taste that many consider unpleasant: this is how it is traditionally consumed. Stowe and Haycock want to focus on “less traditional experimental mixology” at Brooklyn Kava, so they offer a selection of “kava cocktails” containing all-natural and mostly healthy ingredients.

Their absolute top seller, even above any of the coffees, is their lemon & mint cocktail. At the moment, they have three different cocktails, but they plan to add more to the menu and are open to suggestions from their patrons.

The location occupies the space that once belonged to the original location of Cafeteria La Mejor, the beloved Cuban cafe famous for its cafe con leches and bright blue interior. Stowe and Haycock decided to paint the outside wall white, but kept the pink lining of the window in order to “make the place their own while still retaining some of its previous character.” The art painted directly onto the walls of the space, which is the work of Manhattan-based artist Sarah Tse, abstractly represent the process of making kava and the cafe’s other offerings and include a  root heart and a coffee machine.

Brooklyn Kava is a wonderful place to relax, either solo or with friends, or get some work done, but if you don’t feel like sitting, order from outside through the shop’s front window and pick up a beverage on your way to Maria Hernandez Park, which is just a few blocks away. In the future, the shop will also host movie nights featuring the works of local filmmakers. Swing by their their grand opening event on Saturday, April 2nd and try a kava cocktail for yourself.

Brooklyn Kava is located at 191 Suydam St. Hours: 8am-8pm, after April 2 8am-12am. Visit the shop’s website at, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.