CO-OWNER OF THE FOUR SHELLS KAVA LOUNGE & MERCHANT OF THE MOANA
Si’oto’ofa kainga oe moana. Ko hoku hinoga ko ‘Anau Mesui-Henry mei Tonga, my name is ‘Anau Mesui-Henry from Tonga.
I am a proud Tongan born and Mangere raised fefine. I am the co-owner of the Four Shells Kava Lounge located at Victoria Park Markets in Tamaki Makaurau and work as a full time Merchant of the Moana aka Pacific entrepreneur.
What was the inspiration behind starting Four Shells and the pathways that led to you starting your own business?
My inspiration has always been my parents. I grew up experiencing the hustle of the migration to Aotearoa and the navigating of foreign social systems. I watched my parents work hard, make money from nothing and set themselves up as best as they can with the little they had in their hands. They were super resourceful.
And so I deeply understand the emotional and mental sacrifices it took for me to be where I am. These sentiments are deeply rooted in my core pea e ikai teu lava o moui ngalo (and I can not forget).
My old man always told me I can do anything I set my mind to - oku ikai ha me’a teu ta’e lava (there’s nothing that I can not achieve).
It was inevitable that I would end up extending the work of my original best friend, my greatest inspiration in life, my father. Kava helped my parents survive in Aotearoa and now it’s doing the same for me during these crazy times :)
If people want to experience a faikava session can they rock up to the Four Shells Kava Lounge and you and your staff mix and serve? Or how does it work?
The Kava Lounge is a pan Pacific space that we have set up in a way that caters for the different Pacific nations and how they consume kava. We have a lot of local Pacific art on the walls, lounge furniture but also falas (mats) for those who want to mix on the floor, snacks, Four Shells coconut oils, and chilled music.
People can rock up order a shell (for one person), or various group bowls mixed at different strengths to enjoy with a group, purchase takeaway kava to enjoy at home or in the park or order on uber eats if you live centrally.
On Monday we have floor mix Monday, and that’s where we roll out the fala and it’s an open space for people to join, talanoa (have conversations), and meet new people or you can just purchase a bowl of kava to have outside.
We open every day from 4pm.
What would you say is the best advice someone gave you in regards to being an entreprenure and starting your own business?
My dad - ‘you can do whatever you set your mind to’.
A business coach - ‘Revenue is good, profit is great but cash flow is king’.
Hollywood superstar Jason Momoa was a recent customer - how did that come about?
Haha Ruben Wiki aka Kava King ordered some take-away kava and asked if we could deliver it. To be honest, I was drinking kava and in the middle of a good talanoa and I was like ummm …. "Ngata (my 12year old son) can you drive yet or what?" Haha
Anyway, rocked up to where Ruben was and he was with this group of people. It was kind of buzzy but I was on a kava state of mind so was mellow and observing the environment not knowing that Jason Momoa was sitting there at the table. Ruben asked me if I wanted to meet what I thought was someone called Tom haha and the guy turned around and it was Jason.
I was a bit confused because I was expecting a Tom and here was Jason Momoa haha I was like is Jason now Tom?
He was really lovely, we took pictures and chit chat about kava. It was actually a really beautiful interaction. I love how kava connects people like that. I was mindful that Jason probably wanted to chill so I didn’t want to take up too much of his time.
I must say Jason is as beautiful off screen as he is on screen. I felt like I was observing an interesting painting in a gallery with the song ‘whatta man’ by En Vogue playing in the background.
Jason’s team ordered more kava when I got back to the shop, so that is cool.
You will be joining a study on traditional kava being used as treatment for PTSD as a PhD student .
Can you please tell us in your own words how this study will be conducted and why you think it's important?
The research project is over a period of three years and involves a team of researchers and health experts. In simple terms, we will hold talanoa with groups of participants who have experienced or are experiencing PTSD, and measure sleep quality and other factors at set intervals to assess outcomes. The outcomes from the different groups will be analysed to explore the efficacy of kava use within a Pasefika cultural setting to heal those having experienced or are experiencing trauma.
There are so many reasons why this study is important. Firstly, it offers those who are experiencing of have experienced PTSD an option other than the usual euro-centric method, for healing. Lastly, Pasefika have the second highest rate of trauma related distress in Aotearoa New Zealand (12.4%) after tangata whenua (13.7%) and these rates are increasing. Do the current therapeutic approaches always cater to tangata Moana? Personally, I don't think it always does. We need approaches that are underpinned by cultural practises and concepts that make sense to us as people. We need indigenous options of healing, options that are designed by Pasefika people, infused with our knowledge of healing and offered along side current therapeutic approaches.
Any tips for the best kava expereince?
From my personal experience and others may be different but, eat early, drink kava, don’t mix with alcohol, ensure the company is awesome, and just kick back and let the kava lead the talanoa.
Don’t be in a rush to go anywhere because when drinking kava we on a different tā (time) and vā (space).
What do you love about being a Tongan woman today?
What’s there not to love? Haha
I love that we Tongan women are passionate, bold in who we are, carry inner strength stronger than the Rock, capacity broader than Maui’s shoulders, laugh like hyennas and unapologetically uphold the beauty of our culture in the spaces we walk.