One of the most memorable adventures that we undertook during our South West Pacific cruise was being invited to partake in the local Kava Ceremony of Fiji. We were luckily enough to win (by chance) a shore excursion package on on our ship and we decided to cash it in on a tour of a local Fijian village that included a very intriguing Kava ceremony.

The Kava ceremony is a traditional activity that is done to accept new guests and travellers into a Fijian village. This is usually preluded with a big welcoming ceremony that includes plenty of singing and dancing by the villagers.

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So, what is Kava?

The drink is locally known as vagona or grog in Fiji and is a narcotic drink made from a crushed powdered root of a pepper plant. Once crushed it is placed in cloth and mixed in with water and depending on the strength of the root (based on age) it can provide the drinker with a numb feeling around the tongue, lips and mouth area. The local Fijians believe the drink to have medical elements and has since become the national drink of Fiji due to its ancestral past.

So, here we were watching the the locals sing a beautiful welcome song followed by the preparation of the Kava drink by the village leader. We were explained how the ceremony would be done and before we knew it I was the first of our group to be offered participation – yep all eyes on me, I thought to myself “you can’t mess this up”.

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So, how do you partake in the Kava ceremony?

This is what was relayed to the group and what I had to do during the ceremony:

1. The drink is prepared in front of the group by a village leader, whom then strains a small helping of Kava into a bowl. This is then brought up to the group leader (me) by the next in charge.

2. You then clap once – making sure your hands are cupped.

3. This is followed by yelling “Bula!” – which is a welcome greeting in Fiji.

4. Then it’s showtime, no sipping, no second dipping – you need to take the drink and make sure you finish it in one gulp.

5. Once that brown liquid goes down your mouth you are to present the cup back to the villager followed by clapping three times.

6. Your participation ends by saying “Mathe” (mah-tay – don’t worry I messed the pronunciation up during my time).

Stephen Tries Kava

So, how was it?

Phew, the drink was back in his hands and eyes were onto the next participant, I now had time to sit back and indulge in the drink. We were informed that the Kava was weaker than usual so I noticed a slight tingly feeling around my lips and tongue, but not anything uncomfortable or even numb.

If I was to describe the taste, it would be that of a watered down root or piece of bark. There wasn’t much flavour to it and my stomach seemed to accept the attack of the local drink. Some have said for it to taste like mud but I didn’t think so, it was slightly bitter but not too much. It was earthy-rooty-watery.

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I think it is certainly an acquired taste and not one I would add to my drink list anytime soon, but in the end I am glad I did it and experienced this local Fiji tradition. Afterwards I did feel very relaxed – maybe this is why the Fijian people are so friendly?


Kava Ceremony Fiji

You can purchase Kava from locals throughout Fiji, however we highly recommend you partake in a Kava ceremony to really get a feel for the culture and stories behind the drink.

Would you partake in the Kava Ceremony?

Stephen and Jess signoff


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