St. Augustine Kava Bar tearoom opened by Flagler College graduate

“What is kava? “

That’s the first question most people ask themselves when they walk into the Green Turtle Kava Bar, which opened about two weeks ago in St. Augustine.

The answer, owner Maggie Cornelison explained, is that it’s a Southeast Asian plant root extract believed to have a calming effect on the mind and body. It’s served most often as a liquefied drink, and in the case of the green turtle, in hollowed-out coconut shells with a pineapple garnish, giving it a tropical vibe.

Kava is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and Cornelison makes no medical guarantees as to its effectiveness, but it is legal to sell and serve in the United States. It was banned in the early 2000s in Canada and Europe due to some cases of liver damage, but has since been allowed to return to the market.

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With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to stress and isolation over the past year and a half, Cornelison decided it was a great time to start her own business by focusing on something she truly believed in. , she said.

“I was visiting my twin sister in West Palm Beach about a year ago and she told me we should go visit a kava bar,” Cornelison said. “I had no idea what it was.”

One try and she got hooked.

Cornelison, who suffers from chronic migraines, said in her own experience with the drink that it helped relieve some of her symptoms.

The concept of kava bars – part millennium health shop / cafe / lounge – has become very popular lately, especially in places like California and South Florida.

But Saint Augustine?

“I have students who come in regularly, nurses who want a pick-me-up, people who want to go out and work on their laptops,” Cornelison said.

According to the website, Florida actually leads the country in the number of open kava bars.

The Green Turtle Kava Bar in St. Augustine serves kava in coconut shells and botanical teas.

Cornelison said she believes the drink’s healing and relaxing effects have spread to many of the same people who value CBD and other naturalistic substances for their “holistic” qualities.

Housed in an indescribable mall space on Riverside Plaza (at the intersection of State Road 312 and US 1), the vibe inside Green Turtle Kava Bar is decidedly chilly, with a long, polished wood bar, a muted, tropical palette of plants and even a “house dog,” Sahara, who is about as low-key as most guests.

A Flagler College alumnus Cornelison, 36, earned an MBA and worked in the corporate hospitality world for over a decade before concluding that, “I wanted to be able to make a positive difference, and especially in my own community. “

Described on its website as a sort of ‘tea house’, the green turtle primarily offers kava drinks, which can be served with a number of supplements, including milk and honey or flavored syrups like lavender. with blueberries, coconut, hibiscus, or peach (the main drink itself can be a bit bitter, due to its natural peppery “bite”, Cornelison explained).

A single serving of kava costs $ 6, with the price dropping to $ 13 for a triple.

This natural drinker also offers botanical teas with flavors such as ginger and rosemary. Coffee is also available.

Cornelison hopes to eventually add healthy snacks to the menu, as well as take out service available.

‘Come for the kava, stay for the vibe’

Green Turtle’s business slogan is: “Come for the kava, stay for the vibe. This seems entirely appropriate given that the store has happy hour every day from 2 to 6 p.m., and Cornelison said she has already developed regular crowds that come early in the morning, at noon or later in the morning. daytime or evening (store opening hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday).

“People will come in, start talking, start socializing and it’s just a great vibe,” Cornelison said.

Playing “bartender”, she even has a group that come and love the kava bar as an alternative to other elixirs.

“It’s just a healthier alternative to going out and having a glass of wine or a couple of beers, but it’ll relax you in the same way,” Cornelison said. “I have quite a few clients who come from AA [Alcoholics Anonymous]. “

Another goal for Cornelison when starting the business was to find a way to give back to a cause that mattered to her. In this case, it’s about environmental conservation efforts to help sea turtles in Florida. A portion of all sales receipts go to Marineland and other local facilities that contribute to this mission.

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