KAVA IN AUSTRALIA
The demand for kava in Australia has been on a steady upwards growth path since January, 2022. Why?
Because this is when the Australian government decreed a two-year kava trial as from that date. A trial that many in both the government and private sectors have deemed successful.
Subsequently, you can now buy kava online in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the A.C.T., Victoria and Western Australia. Only in the Northern Territory is the selling of kava illegal.
The answer is that kava is a root plant with its proper name being Piper Methysticum. Moreover, it is thought that the name Kava derives from the Tongan language meaning “bitter”.
You may not be aware that it’s only the root of the plant that’s used to make kava powder and for drinks. Consequently, different parts of the root are used for different purposes.
For instance, it’s good for you to know some of the methods used for the preparation of kava in Fiji. There they use the lateral root – Waka and the main root, Lawena. Because Waka Kava has a much higher kavalactone content than the Lawena, Waka Kava is more potent and has a bitter taste.
Also, did you know that the effects from Kava are due to the kavalactones? These are a lactone compound that are responsible for creating the psychotropic effects of Kava drinks. Therefore, people usually measure the potency of Kava based on its kavalactone content.
Where Does Kava Grow?
Now that you understand “what is kava”, we can look at its origins. Specifically, it comes from the Pacific Islands. And in particular, the following countries:
How is Kava Prepared?
Next, we look at how people prepare it. For instance, in the Pacific Islands, they still use Kava root. However, as you may already know, in Australia and other western countries, Kava powder is the main form. What follows are some examples of different Kava preparation.
In Fiji, Kava is usually prepared as part of the Yaqona ceremony where an MC (master of Ceremonies) uses dried Kava root and grinds it into a pulp. Additionally, they may strain it through a traditional strainer bag as well or knead the mixture. After, they add water and the kava usually is normally mixed in a large bowl. Ultimately, the kava drink is then distributed to the ceremonial group wherein each person takes a drink.
As we know from experience, in Vanuatu, the process differs slightly. That is, traditionally, they cut the root, and break it into small pieces. Then, as we have seen, children or young women chew the root and spit it into a bowl. Also, it is often then mixed with coconut water or coconut milk.
By chewing the root, the active ingredients of the Kava (kavalactones) are released. Once the root mixes with the water or milk, they strain and squeeze it. To top it off, they dilute it with clean water and serve in a coconut shell for drinking.
How is Kava Prepared? (Continued)
Kava in Australia, although available in root form, is mostly used as a powder. However, it is rarely used in its root form as companies process Kava on a large scale into powder.
Moreover, individuals usually buy Kava in Australia online as a powder and simply mix it with water or other ingredients to make a Kava drink.
Why is Kava Used?
People use Kava for various reasons such as a recreational drink (been there, done that!). However, it is also used as part of deep cultural ceremonies and traditions. Alternatively, others use Kava for wellness and to help with a variety of conditions.
‣ For ceremonial reasons
In countries like Fiji, Kava is a ceremonial drink where the Kava ceremony in Fiji is a fabulous thing to witness. A ceremony leader gives Kava to participants sitting in a circle. Then each participant takes turns to empty a bowl of Kava. Also, it is a mark of disrespect if you refuse a drink.
Although the Kava ceremony in Fiji is the best-known example, other Pacific Nation countries have their own ceremonies and traditions too.
‣ As a social tonic
As we do, throughout the world, people enjoy Kava as a social drink. Also, the effects that Kava instils are something people enjoy. As such, it often replaces alcohol as a safer social tonic without the negative side effects of a hangover.
People drink Kava at bars (in Vanuatu these are known as “nakamals”). There, friends will gather to enjoy Kava together. Moreover, drinking kava is a very social thing that helps relaxation and often creates a pleasant sense of euphoria.