By Zane Yoshida

A Traveller’s View of Kava

Following on from last week’s blog post about an American herbalist’s view of kava, how does a newcomer to the South Pacific and to kava react to the experience of taking it for the first time?

There was an interesting report at the end of last year in the Fiji Times called Moving to Fiji and letting go of my inhibitions. The story was about a female American Peace Corps volunteer who travelled to Fiji and immersed herself in Fijian life for a year.

Here are some of her most interesting observations about landing in Fiji and, in particular, sampling kava for the first time:

The sevu- sevu arrival ceremony

“After arriving in our respective training villages, the volunteers headed to the community hall to offer kava for a sevu- sevu ceremony, a ritual to welcome us to the village.”

Fijian greeting

“Once the kava was consumed, we were introduced to our host families. My host mother greeted me with a sniff kiss, which is customarily done by the women.”

After dinner

“Once the food was gone, it was back to drinking kava, or ‘grog’ as they call it.”

The taste and effects of traditional kava

“In Fiji, kava is pounded and mixed in with water. When mixed, kava looks like murky water. When consumed, kava tastes like muddy water, and makes your tongue go numb. To feel the sedative properties of kava, you must consume bilo vaka levu (many bowls).”

How kava is served

“The kava is mixed in a bowl called a tanoa and served out of coconut shells. In Fijian culture, you clap once to receive the bowl of grog, drink it in its entirety, then return the bowl and clap three times.”

The men and the women

“During the grog session, the men were in a smaller circle in the back of the community hall playing guitars and ukuleles and singing.”

Breaking down the barriers

“Through dancing and drinking grog, I was able to break down barriers and integrate into my community.”

“Getting out of my comfort zone, out of my head, and embracing the embarrassment, laughter, and ridiculousness of it all allowed me to learn how to connect and live in Fiji.”

Sounds like she enjoyed herself!

Another recent report in the Huffington Post Travel section also shared a few thoughts about Fijian culture and kava drinking for tourists planning to head there:

“Guests at the resorts spend lots of time flaked out on the properties’ powdery white beaches when they’re not wandering around spouting off newly learned Fijian words like bula (boola, meaning hello or welcome) to anyone within earshot.  Other popular attractions at the resorts are ceremonies in which guests down bowls of kava (a mild narcotic drink tasting much like mud) against a background of traditional hand-clapping and shouts of — you guessed it – bula.”

Thinking of travelling to Fiji? You probably won’t be able to avoid a kava ceremony of some sort. Even if you don’t plan on going to Fiji, you can enjoy the relaxing and calming benefits of kava in your own home – through Taki Mai kava shots, kava powder, and kava capsules. None of which taste like “mud” or “muddy water” you’ll be pleased to hear!