Kava Drink

What's the Difference between a kava bar and a kratom bar?

In the world of herbal refreshment, not all bars are created equal. With the rise of mocktail bars, patrons face a curious puzzle: is it a kava bar with its soothing, communal vibe(5), or a kratom bar with its energizing and diverse botanical menu(3)? They look the same and are all named “kava bar”, so what's the difference?

This guide shines a light on the subtle yet significant differences between these two havens of herbal enjoyment, providing you with the keys to unlock the mystery behind each door. Most of the world right now is unaware that kratom bars frequently adopt the "kava bar" label.

This is a strategy that blurs the lines between the addictive potential of kratom and the nonaddictive nature of kava. This overlap places a crucial responsibility on kratom bars that operate under the kava bar moniker to educate their patrons about kratom's distinct characteristics and possible dependency risks. A housekeeping clarification is important as well:

In this article, “nonaddictive” means not physically addictive. Anything can be habitually addictive and we recognize many people struggle with this type of addiction. We're referring to the type that changes your physiology enough to make your body physically dependent.

The fundamental distinction between these establishments lies in their commitment to education and responsible guidance. The most reputable kava bars and kratom bars excel by initiating transparent conversations with their patrons, carefully navigating their preferences and concerns to recommend the most suitable options.

This approach underscores the importance of informed choice. Ensuring patrons are well-versed in the nuances of the herbs and can make decisions that align with their well-being.

Here's a quick guide on the difference between kava bars and kratom bars:

  • Kava Bars: Known for their nonaddictive, relaxing brews derived from the Piper methysticum plant, these bars are communal spaces that promote wellness and connection(4).
  • Kratom Bars: While offering a wider range of effects due to the diverse strains of the Mitragyna Speciosa tree, these establishments must navigate the fine line of educating patrons about the potential for addiction(1).

Understanding these distinctions is more than academic; it's about ensuring your mocktail bar experience aligns with your expectations and wellness goals. Here are the essentials to guide you through your visit:

  • Ambiance: Kava bars often exude a laidback, communal atmosphere, while kratom bars might present a more eclectic vibe focusing on individual exploration. Some may take on a dark or club-like appearance.
  • Menu: Look for the star of the menu; kava bars will highlight kava drinks, whereas kratom bars will feature a variety of kratom-infused options.
  • Education: Reputable kratom bars should actively engage patrons in discussions about kratom's effects and potential for dependency, a step not typically necessary in kava bars. If a bar that highlights kava does carry kratom, they will ideally hold themselves to the same standards(2)(6).
  • Legal Status: Be aware of the legal distinctions in your area, as kratom is currently illegal in 6 states, while kava is legal and thriving in all 50 states.
  • Community vs. Individual Experience: Kava bars prioritize the collective experience of enjoying kava together, while kratom bars cater more to individual preferences and experiences.
  • Health and Wellness Orientation: Both types of bars appeal to health-conscious individuals, but their approach to promoting wellness through their respective botanicals can differ.

    By keeping these pointers in mind, you'll be better equipped to choose the botanical bar experience that best suits your mood, needs, and wellness journey. Whether you're seeking the communal embrace of a kava bar or the diverse botanical exploration offered by a kratom bar, understanding the essence of each can enhance your experience and lead to more informed, enjoyable visits.

    Find a local Kava bar near you 

    Kava Plant

    What is a Kava Bar?

    What is a Kratom Bar?

    Cultural Roots and Ambiance:  

    Kava bars found in the United States are rooted in community, education, and quality. You will most likely see other products when you go to a kava bar, but kava will always be front and center. Usually, plain kava is served in coconut shells, but now people are making wonderful nonalcoholic kava cocktails. This makes kava bars a wonderful option when going out with friends or to meet new people. 

    In the South Pacific, kava bars serve as gateways to the tranquil and communal spirit of Island traditions where kava has been a staple of social gatherings for centuries. 

    These bars are crafted to respectfully capture the essence of these traditions. They allow for the ability to focus on relationships and connection in a relatable way.

    Beyond the Beverage - A Cultural Exchange:  

    Kava bars do more than serve a soothing drink; they offer a cultural exchange, introducing patrons to the heritage and communal ethos behind kava. This cultural depth enhances the social experience, making each sip a dive into a rich tradition that spans the Pacific Islands. 

    The growth of kava bars in the United States directly supports the hardworking communities in these regions, contributing to their economies and sharing their cultural practices with a wider audience. 

    Coffee in the Morning, Kava in the Evening  

    Envision a kava bar as the evening counterpart to the morning coffee shop—a place where the pace slows, conversations deepen, and the stress of the day melts away. It's a setting that echoes the comforts of a café but transitions the vibe from caffeine-fueled energy to kava-induced relaxation.

    Kratom Plant

    Kratom Bars: A Spectrum of Botanical Experiences

    Varied Experiences:  

    While kava bars are dedicated to the singular experience of kava, kratom bars introduce a broader spectrum of botanical beverages, with kratom often taking center stage. These establishments cater to a variety of preferences, offering everything from an energy boost to a calming retreat, depending on the choice of kratom strain.

    Identifying the Focus:  

    Determining whether you've stepped into a kava or kratom bar can be an adventure in itself. The primary clue often lies in the menu—what's highlighted as the star offering gives away the bar's focus. Yet, it's the conversation with the staff that often provides the clearest insight into whether kava or kratom is the main attraction.

    Navigating Between Two Worlds

    The distinction between kava and kratom bars goes beyond the beverages they serve; it's encapsulated in the experiences they curate, the education they provide, and the communities they build. 

    While kava bars offer a dive into a tradition that prioritizes relaxation and communal bonding, kratom bars present a wider array of botanical explorations, each with its own set of benefits and considerations. 

    This exploration into the heart of kava and kratom bars reveals not just a choice between two beverages but a decision on the type of evening experience one seeks.  

    Whether it's the cultural immersion and serene bonding offered by kava bars or the diverse botanical journey found in kratom bars, patrons have the opportunity to engage with these spaces in a way that aligns with their interests, wellness goals, and social preferences. 

    As the landscape of social venues continues to evolve, kava and kratom bars stand out as beacons for those seeking alternatives to traditional nightlife.

    Understanding the nuances that define these spaces enables individuals to navigate this emerging scene with confidence, ensuring a night out can still be rich in connection and culture, without the necessity of alcohol.

     Kava bar


    1.) Sethi R, Hoang N, Ravishankar DA, McCracken M, Manzardo AM. Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa): Friend or Foe? Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2020 Jan 30;22(1):19nr02507. doi: 10.4088/PCC.19nr02507. PMID: 31999896.


    2.) Warner ML, Kaufman NC, Grundmann O. The pharmacology and toxicology of kratom: from traditional herb to drug of abuse. Int J Legal Med. 2016 Jan;130(1):127-38. doi: 10.1007/s00414-015-1279-y. Epub 2015 Oct 28. PMID: 26511390.


    3. Swogger MT, Smith KE, Garcia-Romeu A, Grundmann O, Veltri CA, Henningfield JE, Busch LY. Understanding Kratom Use: A Guide for Healthcare Providers. Front Pharmacol. 2022 Mar 2;13:801855. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.801855. PMID: 35308216; PMCID: PMC8924421.


    4. Wang Y, Su C, Zhang B, Niu Y, Ren R, Zhao X, Yang L, Zhang W, Ma X. Biological Activity, Hepatotoxicity, and Structure-Activity Relationship of Kavalactones and Flavokavins, the Two Main Bioactive Components in Kava (Piper methysticum). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021 Aug 20;2021:6851798. doi: 10.1155/2021/6851798. PMID: 34471418; PMCID: PMC8405297.


    5. Kuchta K, Hladikova M, Thomsen M, Nahrstedt A, Schmidt M. Kava (Piper methysticum) Extract for the Treatment of Nervous Anxiety, Tension and Restlessness. Drug Res (Stuttg). 2021 Feb;71(2):83-93. doi: 10.1055/a-1268-7135. Epub 2020 Nov 18. PMID: 33207379.


    6. Pittler MH, Edzard E. Kava extract for treating anxiety. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001;(4):CD003383. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003383. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(2):CD003383. PMID: 11687196.


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