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By Zane Yoshida

What Fijian Foods Can You Eat With Kava?

Got any favourite Fijian foods, dishes, snacks, or nibbles that you like to tuck into when you have a kava session?

Some people like to take their kava on an empty stomach and eat afterwards; others prefer to eat first.

Either way, it helps to know what the locals eat when the kava comes out, because they’ve been using kava for centuries and have learnt plenty about its digestive effects and which foods best precede, follow, or accompany a coconut shell full of kava (or a Taki Mai kava shot).

Traditional Fijian foods

The cuisine in Fiji is a fine blend of the various ethnicities that make up the population: predominantly the indigenous Fijians and the Indians, with a hint of Chinese influence.

Since the main consumers of kava have always been the indigenous Fijians, it makes sense to look at their traditional foods as accompaniments to the brew.

One of the traditional ways of cooking in Fiji is on hot stones underground. Similar to the Maori way of cooking, this is called a ‘Lovo’, which is essentially an underground oven with white-hot stones that are used to cook meat, seafood, and various root vegetables wrapped in banana leaf. This slow-cook method is well-loved in Fiji and there’s plenty of time to enjoy the kava while the food cooks underground.

Another traditional Fijian dish is the Kokoda. This is raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lemon juice and then prepared in a salad with coriander, celery, onion, tomato, and spring onion. There might also be a splash of chilli.

Added to the these typically Fijian touches is a wide variety of fish and seafood prepared in many different ways. Grouper and coral cod are particularly popular.

In terms of vegetables, a special mention must go to root crops like cassava, sweet potato, and taro, which are used in a variety of dishes and are a staple of Fijian cooking.

Then there are the Indian-inspired and rich-tasting curries that are a feature of virtually all Fijian kitchens.

Fijian fruits

In kava bars in the west, you often see kava served with a ring or half a ring of pineapple. The sweet and sour lushness of the fruit complements the earthiness and bitterness of the taste of the kava.

Other seasonal fruits might also accompany kava. In Fiji, this could be watermelon, bananas, papaya, mango, guava, mandarin, and coconuts, some of which are available all year round.

What’s your preference with kava? Feel free to add a comment about any favourite goods that we’ve missed from the list.

By Zane Yoshida

Fiji Kava Manual: The Way Ahead for the Kava Industry

The regional kava industry has been through some tough times but things are looking up in Fiji and beyond. The Fiji Kava Manual is an initiative to spread the word about high-quality kava farming practices that will help protect the industry well into the future…

After losing an estimated one hundred and thirteen million dollars due to Tropical Cyclone Winston last year, the kava industry in Fiji is at the start of a slow recovery process.  New plants will take a few years to mature, so supplies are not likely to reach pre-Winston levels for some time.

However, the National Fijian Quality Standard for kava was developed to set minimum standards for kava exports; and recent initiatives between the Pacific Community, government, and industry stakeholders are looking to ensure that the good name of kava is protected into the foreseeable future.

I was especially proud to attend the Kava National Training Workshop in Suva recently; this was a ‘train the trainer’ workshop aimed at demonstrating how farmers in each region of the country can improve the quality and standard of the kava they grow.

It was led by the Pacific Agriculture Policy Project Team Leader, Vili Caniogo, who said that it was important to familiarise trainers with the new Fiji Kava Manual. This will help provide awareness of the minimum standards of kava crop varieties.

Fiji National Yaqona Association president, Kini Salabogi, noted that the farmers themselves were usually left out of the training and development of kava farms. The theory is often not carried out in practice on the farms, so the new training and kava manual initiatives hope to address that problem.

Fiji is considered to be ‘lucky’ in that the 13 varieties of kava grown on the islands are all safe to consume. In Vanuatu, however, there are some sub-standard varieties considered unsafe to drink.

A statement released by the Yaqona taskforce (pictured above) overseeing these recent developments in the Fijian kava industry said:

“Much is known about how the kava export industry was plagued by health and product safety concerns in the past, particularly in the mid-late nineties. An underlying threat to these concerns was the lack of quality standards, lack of testing and traceability as well as awareness as to what kava varieties were being exported and consumed.”

“This is a solid platform for kava farmers in Fiji and more assistance is required to ensure that this effort is built on and sustained.”

It is hoped that, by the end of this year, all kava farmers across Fiji are using the new quality standards of planting, handling, processing and testing of kava products.


By Zane Yoshida

Kava Life: The Taki Mai Experience On Video

I’ve used many words over the years to try to explain the kava experience…and, in particular, what it means to be part of the Taki Mai project. But sometimes words are not enough; you need a little help from pictures and, better still, video.

This post looks back at a few of the Taki Mai videos that help explain what it means to be involved in the kava industry in Fiji…and to be sending our Taki Mai kava around the world.

This first one simply takes in the stunning view from one of the Taki Mai trucks, as it goes on one of its delivery journeys from the processing plant on the island of Ovalau, in Fiji – where all our kava originates…


There are more images of Ovalau, including the Taki Mai nurseries, some of our kava root drying, and a few different views of kava plants growing in other kava farms on the island, in this video:


What does Taki Mai instant kava powder look like when it’s mixed with water and finds its home in the kava bowl (tanoa)? Well, this should give you a fair idea…


And what does it mean to taste Taki Mai? Well, you probably know already…but maybe we should verify that with Rohan Marley, son of the legendary Bob Marley, who sampled Taki Mai at Expo West a few years back:


Wherever you are in the world enjoying Taki Mai, isn’t it great to find out where the kava came from in the first place?

These videos hopefully give you an idea of what it means for Fijians to be involved in growing and making the kava that helps people relax and enjoy life around the world.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to ask us below.

By Zane Yoshida

Taki Mai Wins the Fijian Prime Ministers International Business Award

Time to crack open another bag of instant Taki Mai kava powder and mix up a bowl!

We’re celebrating today at South Pacific Elixirs in the only way we know how – with a few shells of our favorite elixir.

That’s because we were honoured at the weekend to receive the Prime Ministers International Business of the Year Award for small business in Fiji.

You can see me with the Minister for Agriculture, Inia Seruiratu, in the picture above, and here’s a close up of the award:

After taking a battering from Winston, the kava industry in Fiji has had a lot to deal with this year; but there have been some great initiatives started for the future of the industry; and what a shot in the arm this award is, as we head into the New Year!

It’s going to be a huge 2017 for Taki Mai and the Fijian kava industry…we can already feel it!

By Zane Yoshida

Helping Ovalau Kava Farmers After Winston

A new quality assurance initiative is being introduced on the Fijian island of Ovalau this week to help kava farmers there – and we’re proud to be behind it.

The system is designed to help generate increased profits and a steady income for kava farmers in the wake of Cyclone Winston which, as you know, severely impacted the kava industry across Fiji.

What is the Participant Guarantee System (PGS)?

The Participant Guarantee System (PGS) is an initiative originally designed by the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) which is funded by the Australian government and coordinated by The University of Queensland.

Its overall aim is to create sustainable developments for South Pacific agribusiness, improving the livelihoods of South Pacific farmers and their families.

The PGS is a quality assurance initiative, whereby the farmers guarantee reliable and consistent quality and a regular supply of premium produce and, in return, the major buyers (such as resorts) guarantee to accept a certain quantity of the produce and to pay a good price for it.

The following video explains more about the PGS and how it’s helping all types of farmers around Fiji.

As you can see, the system wasn’t designed for kava farmers. It was originally piloted with 16 vegetable farmers near the capital, Suva, and will expand to other regions around Fiji.

The support it provides to smallholders, who traditionally have little market power, is encouraging farmers to produce higher quality and greater quantities of produce, because of the guaranteed market demand.

It is a win-win for the farmers and the businesses buying the vegetables and the success of the scheme has led to a similar initiative being set up for kava.

How does it work for Ovalau kava farmers?

Kava farmers on the island of Ovalau are smallholders. This is the island where South Pacific Elixirs has set up its Taki Mai operations and we have our nurseries and production facilities there. It’s also where I was born, so I have a keen interest in helping the island prosper.

Dr. Rob Erskine Smith, from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia (who can be seen in the above video above) received a small grant from the EU through the Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) program. This was designed to help the kava farmers on Ovalau with a structured rebuilding program after Winston, and to secure a more reliable supply chain.

South Pacific Elixirs has helped develop the initiative in terms of quality control input and together we are forming nine farmers’ groups on the island.

Kava farmers join up to become members of one of the nine groups, which function as individual companies. Each has a president, secretary and treasurer, with the company owned equally by members. Training is provided and profits are paid to members according to the produce they supply, while a small sum is retained for company operations such as cool room costs, transport, and marketing. Each company has more buying power for fertiliser and other essential supplies and this is another benefit of becoming a member.

As one of the main buyers of kava on the island, South Pacific Elixirs is proud to be throwing our weight behind the initiative and supporting the farmers there.

What are the benefits for the kava farmers?

As you see from the video, the PGS has a real impact on the lives of smallholder farmers around Fiji. As a coordinated group with consistent quality produce, they are able to attract premium prices, allowing for extra profits to be used to improve farms and households.

Rather than the profits going to market entrepreneurs (such as middle men) they end up in the farmers’ pockets.

The tomato farmers in the video were able to pipe water from the source to improve irrigation on their land, buy cattle, and build more solid houses. With a steadier income, they can afford to fund better education for their children.

The hope is that similar benefits will come to Ovalau kava farmers as a result of the system being put in place there.

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What Fijian Foods Can You Eat With Kava?
Fiji Kava Manual: The Way Ahead for the Kava Industry
Kava Life: The Taki Mai Experience On Video
Taki Mai Wins the Fijian Prime Ministers International Business Award
Helping Ovalau Kava Farmers After Winston