Preparing Kava


Kava is widely drunk in Vanuatu and is a drug and not an alcoholic drink. It’s supposed to be non-addictive, but most Ne-van men drink it every evening. It doesn't produce the drunken behaviour of alcohol, but is more of a sedative or relaxant, that first numbs the mouth and tongue and slowly relaxes the rest of the body.

Kava is a peaceful drug which is said to lead to amusing and intellectual conversations that would not normally be considered between strangers or even enemies. It has been used throughout Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia at meetings and ceremonies for a long time to promote peaceful conversations especially at tense situations.

Preparation Time: 1 hour

Kava is made from the root of the Pepper Tree (Piper methysticum). “Piper” means pepper and “methysticum” means intoxicating. The bushes grow to two metres tall and are normally harvested at 4-5 years.

Preparing Kava 1. The shrub is uprooted and the roots are collected. If purchased, a 1 kilogram bundle of roots will cost $3US and is sufficient to make 1-1/2 litres of kava drink.
Preparing Kava 2. The roots are washed and then the outer skin is scraped away leaving the inner white flesh of the root.
Preparing Kava 3. Depending on the island, the root is crushed or grated. In Lembinwen, they pound it in a large tube, but in other places they use a mortar and pestle. Traditionally on some islands (Tanna in particular), the roots are chewed by pre-pubescent boys and spat into a bowl (not a pleasant thought).
Preparing Kava 4. The pulp is placed in the appropriate amount of water (1-1/2 litres for 1kg of raw root) and is then squeezed by hand to extract the juice from the root. The squeezed pulp is then re-pounded and squeezed in the liquid a total of four times.
Preparing Kava 5. The liquid, which is now a dirty grey colour, is then poured through some cloth to strain out the remaining pulp. This is done three times and the Kava is ready to drink.

In the Maskelyne Islands, they chop and grind the kava root rather than pounding it.

Preparing Kava The root is chopped up into small pieces using the ubiquitous machette.
Preparing Kava The chopped root is put through a meat grinder before squeezing in the water.