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New Kava Bar offers Ithacans an alternative way to take the edge off

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Just around the corner from the loud and crowded bars in the Ithaca Commons, stands a small storefront, tucked away with a modest chalkboard out front sign that reads: “Mystic Water Kava Bar and Yoga Studio.” The sign also lists a few facts about the new drink that’s got everyone talking.

Mystic Water is the only kava bar in New York State and Ithaca’s newest non-alcoholic alternative downtown. The bar, which is one among 20 kava bars in the nation, has offered one product, and one product only since its doors opened in May: kava, a cold tea that is said to relieve stress, decrease anxiety, act as a relaxer and elevate the mood of the drinker.

“It’s a relaxant and it’s not getting you drunk,” Erik Johnson, one of the bar’s regulars, said. “It consciously calms the body and mind down.”

Kava is a root grown exclusively in the South Pacific Ocean. Mystic Water has the root — which needs to grow three or four years to age properly — shipped to them in dried powder form directly from Vanuatu, an island nation in the Pacific where the plant grows. The root is then steeped cold in water and mixed for kava shots.

Mystic Water Kava Bar and Yoga Studio currently offers plain and flavored kava shots. There is a fixed menu, customers can order from three or four different flavors of Kava shots that are made up for that day.

“On a simple level, one thing that happens after drinking kava is that the capillaries open and more oxygen is able to get to your neurons in the brain,” one of the store’s bartenders, Kaiaya Shedd said, “The muscles relax more easily and you can think more clearly without tension.”

This sensation, Shedd said, motivates customers to explore meditation and yoga in Mystic Water’s accompanying yoga studio, which is attached to the bar. Classes are offered throughout the week and the room is always open for anyone who desires to practice their technique.

Throughout the night, the bar is occupied with newcomers stopping by to explore and regulars returning for more.

“Everybody has a slightly different idea of what their intention is with kava,” bartender Madeline McCann said. “People are catching on.”

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