4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Drinking kava in Fiji

An experience of the islands' unique drink and ceremony.

The kava-making process at work.
The kava-making process at work.

The Fiji Islands are known for their friendly natives, good-natured spirit and outgoingness of their people. Set in the South Pacific, Fiji is made up of over 300 islands, although most visitors touch base on the main two islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Making kava.

Kava is the national drink of Fiji, and is also popular in other South Pacific nations such as Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu. Made from pounding the roots of the Yaqona plant (Piper methysticum) and infusing the powdered kava root with water, the drink produces a mild sedative and anesthetic effect – as well as a mild euphoria.

Drinking kava is a social pastime, although it also serves a role in traditional customs related to tribal society. Having made several trips to Fiji, I have always enjoyed experiencing kava drinking with the locals, both at the resorts as well as in the villages.

Fijian village life revolves around a strong sense of family and community, with the presence of a local chief in each village or province. Villages consist of modest dwellings, and some of the villagers still live in thatched roof homes. Each village typically has a small church and a larger community building where the villagers may gather to eat, celebrate and welcome guests.

We visited Navala village on the banks of the Sigatoka River with a member of the staff from our hotel. This village has only recently accepted visitors, and we were received warmly. The looks of joy and wonder on the faces of the children in itself made the trip worthwhile. As a tradition, it is customary to bring a gift of kava roots to present to the chief upon our arrival. Once accepted and welcomed, our entire group sat cross-legged on the floor opposite the chief and his assistants, who were already mixing up kava in a large wooden bowl in anticipation of our arrival. The kava preparation is and presentation is done with much ritual: chanting, clapping of hands and blessing.

Upon receiving the kava, served in a coconut shell bowl, the participant claps their hands one time and proclaims “bula!”, the Fijian greeting which denotes several meanings (similar to “aloha” in Hawaiian). The kava is drunk in one gulp, and then the bowl is returned to the host, followed by clapping three times. The kava drink has the appearance (and some say taste) of muddy water. Upon imbibing the drink, we felt a noticeable mild numbness of the tongue and gums. After several bowls, a feeling of very light intoxication and overall well-being set in.

Fijians playing guitar at the kava ceremony.

After and during the kava drinking, members of the village broke out guitars and serenaded us with their lovely voices. The multi-part harmonies and moving melodies sung by all ages could only be described as heavenly. No gathering is complete without food, music and dance, and after serving us a family-prepared meal of local fruits, leafy vegetables, starches (cassava, taro, potatoes) chicken and fish, we were all encouraged to get up to dance traditional-style with our hosts.

With a full belly of kava and the delicious, lovingly prepared Polynesian-style food, no one dared turn down the invitation to strut to the music and learn a few local moves.

Kava is part of daily life in Fiji, both in villages and in urban areas and across all classes and walks of life. "Having a grog," as drinking kava is sometimes known, is used for welcoming and bonding with visitors, for storytelling sessions, or merely for passing time.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Let them eat French Charolaise steak

Controversial U.N. Foundation bankrolls Jacobs aide's Nicosia junket
Next Article

San Diego actors' worst stories, he guards Volcan Mountain, community college adjunct

Oceanside's mapmakers, Somalis work Santa Fe Depot, a La Jolla boiler room, limo drivers file class action, SD Museum of Art's restorers, the SDSU rock man
The kava-making process at work.
The kava-making process at work.

The Fiji Islands are known for their friendly natives, good-natured spirit and outgoingness of their people. Set in the South Pacific, Fiji is made up of over 300 islands, although most visitors touch base on the main two islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

Making kava.

Kava is the national drink of Fiji, and is also popular in other South Pacific nations such as Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu. Made from pounding the roots of the Yaqona plant (Piper methysticum) and infusing the powdered kava root with water, the drink produces a mild sedative and anesthetic effect – as well as a mild euphoria.

Drinking kava is a social pastime, although it also serves a role in traditional customs related to tribal society. Having made several trips to Fiji, I have always enjoyed experiencing kava drinking with the locals, both at the resorts as well as in the villages.

Fijian village life revolves around a strong sense of family and community, with the presence of a local chief in each village or province. Villages consist of modest dwellings, and some of the villagers still live in thatched roof homes. Each village typically has a small church and a larger community building where the villagers may gather to eat, celebrate and welcome guests.

We visited Navala village on the banks of the Sigatoka River with a member of the staff from our hotel. This village has only recently accepted visitors, and we were received warmly. The looks of joy and wonder on the faces of the children in itself made the trip worthwhile. As a tradition, it is customary to bring a gift of kava roots to present to the chief upon our arrival. Once accepted and welcomed, our entire group sat cross-legged on the floor opposite the chief and his assistants, who were already mixing up kava in a large wooden bowl in anticipation of our arrival. The kava preparation is and presentation is done with much ritual: chanting, clapping of hands and blessing.

Upon receiving the kava, served in a coconut shell bowl, the participant claps their hands one time and proclaims “bula!”, the Fijian greeting which denotes several meanings (similar to “aloha” in Hawaiian). The kava is drunk in one gulp, and then the bowl is returned to the host, followed by clapping three times. The kava drink has the appearance (and some say taste) of muddy water. Upon imbibing the drink, we felt a noticeable mild numbness of the tongue and gums. After several bowls, a feeling of very light intoxication and overall well-being set in.

Fijians playing guitar at the kava ceremony.

After and during the kava drinking, members of the village broke out guitars and serenaded us with their lovely voices. The multi-part harmonies and moving melodies sung by all ages could only be described as heavenly. No gathering is complete without food, music and dance, and after serving us a family-prepared meal of local fruits, leafy vegetables, starches (cassava, taro, potatoes) chicken and fish, we were all encouraged to get up to dance traditional-style with our hosts.

With a full belly of kava and the delicious, lovingly prepared Polynesian-style food, no one dared turn down the invitation to strut to the music and learn a few local moves.

Kava is part of daily life in Fiji, both in villages and in urban areas and across all classes and walks of life. "Having a grog," as drinking kava is sometimes known, is used for welcoming and bonding with visitors, for storytelling sessions, or merely for passing time.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Oceanside plans to sell schools to cut deficit

"Why does the district need three people to work full time in public relations?”
Next Article

Imperial Beach pushes to skirt parking crunch

Will housing regulators let them do what Pismo Beach did?
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close