Binghamton’s students and residents alike might wander into Doc Concrescence Kava, Tea, Elixir Bar and Social Club expecting an average tea shop, but behind the doors of 89 Court St. lies much more than that.
Doc Concrescence — Doc Con for short — calls itself a kava, tea and elixir bar with a focus on kava. Owner Juri Ahn opened the bar on Feb. 3, during this month’s First Friday event, ushering Binghamton into the kava bar trend spreading across the nation. These bars have appeared in cities like New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Before coming to Binghamton, Ahn lived and worked for 25 years in San Francisco, where the kava bar trend first gained traction.
Kava is a drink made from the roots of the kava plant found across Polynesia. For thousands of years, it has been important in cultures of Polynesian Islands — such as the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu — all of which are responsible for the kava that Ahn uses. There are several ways to serve kava, but Ahn serves his kava as a powder mixed with water.
Kava is known for its relaxing effects, allowing people to sleep better, concentrate on tasks or induce a feeling similar to being drunk. Most people drink kava for these effects and not for its taste, which is earthy and bitter.
“It tastes like dirt with flowers,” Ahn said.
Because of this, Ahn says the best way to drink kava is by chugging it, as to not prolong the taste, and after finishing, shouting “bula,” which means “life” in Tongan. For Polynesians, kava is deeply embedded in their culture and drinking kava is a way to celebrate life and happiness. Shouting “bula” is more than a Polynesian version of “cheers” — it is paying homage to a generations-old culture and tradition.
Doc Concrescence has an array of kavas to choose from and each type has a unique story and use from its culture of origin. The Black Lava Kava from Vanuatu, one of Doc Concrescence’s strongest kavas in stock, has been used by Polynesian headhunters since ancient times as a celebratory drink after hunts. The purple mo’i from Hawaii was served only to queens and seen as a delicacy for its potent sedation effect.
As a long-time kava drinker, Ahn shares these stories and introduces his guests to the enduring culture behind kava. A trip to Doc Concrescence for kava combines a unique bodily feeling and ancient traditions, while remaining modern and trendy.
Though kava is Doc Concrescence’s priority, they also feature a vast collection of teas from the Hunan province of China. Ahn said that the tea leaves come from trees in China that are around 800 to 1,000 years old.
The elixirs at Doc Concrescence are mixtures of natural and herbal ingredients, such as matcha and ashwagandha, and are made at the bar. Each elixir is supposed to invoke certain effects in the drinker. Doc Concrescence’s elixirs feature different themes based on their effects, and the current selection is inspired by the theme of aphrodisiacs.
Despite the short time Doc Concrescence has been open, Ahn already has plans for the future. He said he plans to stage poetry readings every Tuesday starting Feb. 21. He also hopes to host formal tea sippings on Wednesdays and live music performances on Fridays.
“Come and hang out,” Ahn said. “Use it for what its purpose is, which is a social club.”