Drinking Kava in Fiji

A few years ago while in Australia I made the quick jump over to Fiji for five days, (which is not enough time at all) and I was introduced to Kava. Well I suppose it was a bit more intense then just “being introduced” to it, every time I turned around it seemed like someone was standing there with another bowl of kava for me. At one point when my tour guide said to me “it’s kava time!” I had to say “no, please no, no more kava time!”, even though I liked the stuff it was just too much for me at that point.

Dried kava root in a market.

Kava is the name of a plant whose roots are dried, pounded into powder and then placed in a cheese cloth type bag and rung through with water to make a drink of the same name called of course “Kava”. Kava is popular as a drink not only in Fiji but also other parts of the Pacific Ocean like Vanuatu, Polynesia, Melanesia, etc.

Powdered kava being poured onto a cloth before the water is added.

Kava is known to relax a person without disrupting mental clarity and I found the people of Fiji drank it socially to chill out and one of the reasons I liked it the most was because I got some of the best nights sleeps ever after drinking that stuff. It was also funny to drink because it makes your stomach and your tongue numb.

If ever invited to drink kava at a kava ceremony with a village Chief or just with friendly Fijians know that you are expected to drink the whole bowl of kava that is given to you and you will definitely be offered more than one bowl in a sitting. There are two options for the amount of Kava that you drink and they are “high tide” and “low tide” which is basically a full bowl and half a bowl. If you are female they will most likely give you a low tide right away, I took this as them thinking I couldn’t take a full bowl so for some crazy reason I challenged them every time and always asked for a high tide.

Mixing the kava in a traditional bowl with some not so “other” traditional items like the tire and plastic bowl.

Many people describe the taste of Kava as tasting like dirt and it kind of does, however the taste didn’t bother me. It wasn’t a OMG I need to spit this out immediately it tastes like dirt kind of taste but it just wasn’t the taste of something that people are suppose to consume, there is no delicious flavour. People don’t drink it for the taste, they drink it for what effect it has on you.

Before the first time you try Kava (hopefully) you will be told the ritual and how you accept the drink and how you drink it. Bula is a Fijian word for “Hello” and has a few other uses like when you drink Kava, before you are handed the drink you say “Bula” and cup your hands and clap them together once, you drink it all down in one gulp, no sipping, no tasting, hand the bowl back and clap three more times with your hands cupped.

Enjoy kava in a village with the Chief in the middle and my tour guide Ruben.

Note that it is an insult to refuse kava especially after the bowl of it is already in your hand, plug your nose if you have to, just chug it down! Honestly though you shouldn’t have any problems.

To see some of my experience with kava for the first time and video from my trip to Fiji check out this video…. warning its not the best I’ve ever made…



Have you ever tried Kava? What did you think of it?

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