Chris Allen. 06/13/2014
The Giant Wild ‘Awa of Hawaii
There were few different times that Hawaiian ‘Awa was exported, the 1800s and the 1900s. During these times the Hawaiian ‘Awa flourished in the wild. One day I was hiking and I came across am ‘Awa Hiwa and it was bigger than my full size Ford truck. To this day we still don’t know how old a Kava that size might be. Other places in the Pacific could not believe the stories about the huge size of our Hawaiian ‘Awa. In the other kava producing areas, there kava had to deal with pest and disease so they could not get that big.
At that time, the ‘Awa market was coming to Hawaii because of the Kava craze of the time. In the wild, these big giant ‘Awa plants were being stolen by thieves and sold to resellers. We were losing so much wild ‘awa to these thieves that we started a task force that I headed. The task force was made up of ‘Awa experts, land owners, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Enforcement division, the police department and “AHA” (The Association for Hawaiian Awa).
We did a bunch of stuff. One of them was to put micro chips into these big giant ‘Awa plants to track them.
Disease Rares Its Ugly Head
When the liver scare came out from Germany (since rescinded) the Kava Market dropped. At the same time, we started getting disease and pests and this decimated some of the old stands of Hawaiian ‘Awa. There was once a car sized ‘Awa plant on the side of the stream at Kolekole and now there is nothing. A victim of he Phoma fungus and some ‘Awa thieves.
Treasure in the Valleys
I believe that there could still be undiscovered ‘Awa strains in the Forests and Valleys of Hawaii. There may even be some growing in an old Garden in somebody’s backyard. Periodically, I like to go exploring to see what I can find. For me, it is both a Treasure Hunt and an attempt to salvage the history of Kava in Hawaii.