Kava Culture

“Kava is like chamomile on steroids.”~ unknown.  

I always stress out before we leave on a trip. This month we are leaving for two and one half months. First stop Cuba, then Mexico for a month, then to the states to visit family and check on our house.

Planning for an extended trip is exhausting. It takes months of planning to book Airbnbs, transportation, and flights. Then, there is the planning for our housesitters, bills to pay ahead, etc.

Kava to the rescue! When we were in Fiji last November, I wanted to go to a Kava ceremony. Instead, our Airbnb hosts brought the Kava ceremony to us. The Fijian house keeper took us to the market to pick out the best Kava roots and coconut husk cups.


Kava is a mildly narcotic drink made from mixing the powdered root of the pepper plant (piper methysticum) with water. it is known as yaqona or simply grog in Fiji. Most open-air markets in Fiji have stalls and stalls of the Kava root.

Maria, the housekeeper, knew exactly where to take us. She inspected and smelled the Kava roots, so she could take only the best to be ground into powder.

img_2461After we bought the Kava power, our next stop was to choose the perfect Kava cups made from coconut husks.

img_2464Since neither of us had ever had Kava, we stopped at a stall in the market to taste test the muddy looking concoction. First, she put a scoop of the Kava root powder into a cloth bag.

img_2466Then, her husband dipped the bag of powdered Kava into a bowl of water. He dipped and squeezed…dipped and squeezed straining the powerful Kava juice into the water until it looked kind of like a muddy pond after a heavy rain.

img_2467Kava has many benefits, but the downside is the taste. It reminds me of grainy mud. Ron drank a bowl, then I drank one. We weren’t sure what to expect, if anything, but one cup each left us feeling relaxed and a little tingly.

img_2468That evening Maria performed a Kava ceremony for us. The ceremony of drinking Kava is to the Fijians like the formal tea ceremony is to the Chinese and Japanese. Enjoyed on both important and social occasions, Kava is traditionally accompanied by a ceremonial atmosphere.

People of the Pacific Islands have used it for centuries as everything from a pain reliever to a ceremonial drink.  Every evening, one can find small Kava stands in the neighborhoods where neighbors and friends partake in the ceremony.

img_2480Usually, everyone sits in a circle on the floor while a large bowl called a tanoa is placed in front of the leader. The Kava root is pounded and the pulp placed into a cloth sack, then mixed with water where it turns a brownish muddy color.

img_2482Maria squeezed and strained the Kava power into the water. It reminded me of washing dirty socks by hand. And, it tasted similar! It is an acquired taste.

img_2487The leader, Maria, strained the liquid and filled a small coconut husk cup called a bilo to be presented and drunk in one shot by the chief guest, who must clap once before and after swigging the Kava. Then, the order of serving continues from the most important guest down the ranks in order of status.

img_2493After the first cup, I had a numb feeling around my mouth, lips and tongue and a sense of relaxation. After the fifth cup, I was hooked on Kava. It helped me relax without dulling my mental edge. WOW!

I was calm, alert, and a little giddy!

We brought a bag of powdered Kava home with us. Whenever I feel stressed, we have our tiny Kava ceremony and the stress melts away.

Here are some of the benefits of Kava:
Health Benefits of the Kava Kava Root

Kava Uses, Benefits & Dosage- a scientific article

Benefits of Kava- WebMD

We are leaving in a week for Cuba and I heard the internet is really, really slow
( that is, when you can find it) thus, I won’t post anything when we are gone for the month of March. We fly from Havana to Mexico where we have a really cool AirB&B apartment for a month with fast wi-fi. Whoopie! Stay tuned for lots of April posts and try some Kava in the meantime.

How do you relieve stress? 

19 thoughts on “Kava Culture

  1. I need Kava! I always stress out before traveling too. Somehow though it always seems to work out.
    I think you will love Cuba. The internet though, not so much so we’ll look forward to news when you get connected again. I’m looking forward to experiencing Mexico through your eyes too. Where in Mexico will you be?

  2. Debbie, I so look forward to your posts on your travels coming up! I read a book some time ago about a man that went to a remote island and was describing Kava. He stayed very rustic, I must say, but it was very interesting. Safe travels, and many Blessings!

  3. A very interesting ceremony, Debbie and, while not as enjoyable as a vintage wine, a good way to wind down the day. Sounds like you have a great trip planned and won’t need that kava until you hit the US. Then you might have to up your dose to 3 times per day! Safe travels and I’ll be looking forward to reading about your adventures. Anita

  4. Safe and enjoyable travels. I’ve heard of kava but never read about the entire ritual. To relieve stress, I like to exercise, take a walk in the park, read, or try to get something, anything accomplished, which makes me feel much better.


  5. Debbie,

    We have some friends from the kindom of Tonga, who really enjoy kava, which is very commonplace there. I look forward to tasting it, in the meantime I’ll keep enjoying my Flor de Caña con agua de coco. You two have a safe trip.

    • Oh, my gosh, Ernesto! I was trying to click on your name to see if you have a blog but with my tablet I ended up hitting thumbs down, I’m terribly sorry! I really like your post and thought it would be interesting to hear more about your Tonga friends. Please forgive me, I can’t seem to get it to go away. Blessings to you!

      • No problem Barbara. I need all the thumbs up I can get. My Tongan friends are a lovely couple, Sulia and Howard, whom I worked with here in California. They retired early to make a go of it in Tonga, as Sulia is native of the kingdom. They have a lovely pad by the ocean and enjoy kava and the ocean breezes in their front yard.

        Do you live in Ometepe?


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