Kava is a tea-like drink made from the root of a pepper plant grown in the Pacific Islands that is said to have a relaxing effect on consumers. Used in the South Pacific to treat anxiety, stress, and insomnia, St. Petersburg resident Sean Suits was a bank executive who found kava helped fight the stress that came along with his job. He couldn’t find a kava bar that had the vibe he wanted, so he found some partners and opened a bright, big open space that sourced local ingredients and would be an ideal gathering place for artists, professionals and students. The result is Grassroots Kava House located in the Grand Central Region of St. Petersburg.
"We wanted to open a place in St. Pete that had the look and feel of a high-end coffee shop to introduce kava to a wide range of people that had never experienced it before,” said Grassroots Kava's Sean Suits. The kava served at Grassroots is the finest quality available comes from Fiji, Vanuatu and Hawaii. In the islands it is served in a coconut or large sea shell, but at Grassroots it comes in a small silver bowl. To understand how it is traditionally consumed, start out with the first item on the Grassroots menu called Experience. Traditional kava doesn’t have much of flavor and is meant to be consumed quickly, like a shot of whiskey.
If you’re looking for a kava drink with more flavor and one you can linger over, try one of the many signature kava cocktails like the Kava Mule. This drink is a cousin to the popular Moscow Mule but replaces vodka with Kava. It’s made with Tidal Boar Ginger Beer, lime, simple syrup and fresh mint all served on ice in a copper mug. This is perfect for a sipping slowing on a hot summer day.
Customers enjoy outside seating and kava cocktails on the Grassroots sidewalk.
One of their most popular drinks is the S’mores kava cocktail, combining kava with cacao, toasted marshmallow syrup and almond milk, and garnished with toasted mini marshmallows. The first thing you taste is chocolate, then the subtle flavor of marshmallow comes through and before you know it you're saying “this does taste like a s’more!”
S'mores kava cocktail at Grassroots Kava House.
Grassroots also participates in the kava tradition of Bula. Throughout the day a bell rings to give everyone a chance to quickly order a kava drink. Then someone behind the bar yells “shells up” and then “Bula” which is the Fijian expression for cheers, long life and good health. Everyone in the place raises their kava and shouts “Bula!” It's an instant party and so much fun, much like yelling “Opa!” in a Greek restaurant.
Grassroots offers a variety of coffee and tea drinks as well and locally sources as many ingredients as possible. Their coffee is locally roasted at Blind Tiger in Tampa, their cold brew nitro coffee is from Made Coffee, and their infused teas, ginger beer, kombucha and matcha all come from St. Petersburg area companies. Even their baked goods come from a local baker and if you want to try them, come early because they always sell out quickly. You'll also find ample seating close to a power supply and strong WiFi. Upstairs is a big space that offers yoga classes, classic arcade games and can be rented for private events for up to 70 people. Another full-service kava bar will be added upstairs soon and there are two levels of outside seating.
You could easily spend hours at Grassroots, sampling kava drinks while catching up on work, surfing and reading. It’s a great place to meet up with friends to socialize and take in St. Petersburg's Grand Central vibe. It’s always fun and always trying new things to enhance the customer experience. Bula to you, Grassroots!
Grassroots Kava House is located at 957 Central Avenue and can be reached at 727-220-3041. For more of the coolest places to hang out visit 727area, your first and best choice for places to eat and drink, plus special events in your neighborhood. Register for updates sent to your mobile device and best of all... it’s free!
All photos from author.