Kava Culture: Sampling Fiji's Most Famous Drink
Guinness in Ireland, sake in Japan, Pisco Sour in Peru – some drinks are best enjoyed in the place they came from. When in Fiji, that beverage of choice is kava.
Fiji’s national drink has a long history and kava remains a big part of community celebrations in Fiji today. But it’s the soothing side effects that’ll really leave you buzzing. (In a good way, promise!) Before you join a kava ceremony at Outrigger Resorts, here’s what you can expect.
What is kava, exactly?
Kava, also known as kava kava, is a plant native to the Pacific Islands. You might also hear it called by its Fijian name, yaqona. The drink itself is made only from the root of the plant. In Fiji, the roots are sun-dried, ground down to a fine powder, then mixed with cold water to create the drink.
Legend has it that kava was the drink of choice for the kings and queens of many Pacific Island nations. If you visit a local village today, it’s good etiquette to bring a small gift of yaqona root to the chief.
What’s it like to try kava?
Let’s just say, it’s an acquired taste. The word kava in Tongan means “bitter” which should give you a hint. Kava is not meant to be slowly sipped or savored, though. If you can, it’s considered polite to accept the drink in one big gulp.
At this point, don’t be surprised if you start feeling a little numbing sensation starting in your mouth – rest assured, it’s completely normal. Part of kava’s appeal is its gentle, calming effect. Simply sit back and feel the relaxation float from your head down to your toes.
Where can you try kava?
Experiencing a traditional kava ceremony is the best way to try the famous drink. It’s also the perfect introduction to Fijian culture. Guests of Outrigger Resorts can join kava ceremonies every week as part of their weekly activities, or by traveling into a local village to learn more about this important ritual firsthand.
Kava ceremonies have a celebratory atmosphere and it’s important to respect the local traditions. Dress modestly (no hats or low necklines) and be ready to sit cross-legged on the floor along with all the other participants.
After accepting your drink, clap once and say, “Bula!” (Hello!)
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