Kava Kava - Vanuatu Hawaii
Ethically and sustainably harvested from Vanuatu, Hawaii
Average Kavalactone Content: 12%-15%
History & Tradition
The ancient origins of Kava drinking trace back at least 3,000 years and are associated with both social and ceremonial function.
Kava is a plant in the pepper family. It is found in the western Pacific and traditionally drunk by many of the island cultures of the Pacific Ocean, including Fiji, Vanuatu, Hawaii, and Polynesia.
Kava is known by many names. It’s scientific name is piper methysticum which translates to intoxicating pepper. In Hawaii, it’s called ’awa, in Somoa, it’s ’ava, in Fiji, it’s yaqona, and in Pohnpei, it’s sakau. While there are many more names worldwide besides those listed, these are the most popular.
Each culture within the Pacific Islands has their own cultural etiquette to be followed with preparing and drinking kava. Parts of their pre- and post-drinking routines differ, but they all share the aspect of giving gratitude and respect for their Gods during the rituals.
To this day Kava remains used in ceremonies used by the Pacific Islanders but is also used on a more frequent basis. It is also available to purchase in designated kava bars throughout the world, online, or in health food stores to be sold in encapsulated form.
Harvesting & Processing
The kava plant is a tropical shrub with long and knobby green stalks that can grow anywhere between 2 and 6 meters tall. The plant takes approximately 3 years for it to reach maturity but the first harvest should not be taken any earlier than 4 years or it will take the risk of becoming endangered. Plants 5-10 years old are sought after for their higher active compound concentration.
Root cutting is then taken and planted in order to grow more plants because it is difficult for them to grow on their own. The cuttings are soaked in wet mulch made up of the leaves, stems, and shoots of past harvests.
The root has two distinct sections: the ’crown root’ near the base of the plant which is cut up into small pieces, and the ’lateral root’, that looks more like a common tree root. The crown makes up roughly 80% of the roots. The lateral roots, make of the remaining 20% and are desired for higher concentrations of active compounds. Much like the cultivation process, only the roots are harvested.
For processing the cut kava root is taken to a drying facility for commercial use. After drying it is reduced to a powder by most commonly using cold milling.
The good stuff (nutrition facts):
The active ingredients in kava are the kavapyrones, otherwise known as kavalactones. These constituents are mainly found in the rhizomes. The kavalactones are responsible for the mouth-numbing effects as well as the relaxing effects
Over the past 100 years, investigation of the root has revealed that the active ingredients in Kava, the kavalactones, comprise 15% of the roots. Of the 15 kavalactones isolated, there are six major lactones known that provide desired effects to consumers, being:
These kavalactones make up the kava chemotype, which put simply is the chemical make-up of the plant. Kava chemotypes vary between regions and produce slightly different effects when consuming. This can be beneficial to research when purchasing kava for specific wants or needs.Preparation:
Traditionally, the process of preparing kava took place before rituals and ceremonies. Very select people were chosen to chew the root into a pulp. They would then spit it onto a leaf for cold coconut water to be poured over the leaf. The strained liquid is collected in a special handcrafted ceremonial bowl. It was believed that the chewing process blended the root with enzymes in the saliva and promoted the extraction of kavalactones.
The liquid that was strained through the leaf and into the communal bowl would then be scooped out with coconut shell cups to drink.
Luckily, the process has been modernized.
Modernized Traditional Method:
The modernized way to prepare when there is no ceremonial bowl or fresh cut/chewed kava root on hand.
- kava root powder
- a large bowl
- strainer bag (muslin, cheesecloth)
- cold, filtered water
To begin the preparation of kava with this method you will place your strainer bag in the large bowl and depending on how strong you want the drink. Measure 2-4 tablespoons of kava root powder for every 8-12 ounces of water. It should be noted there is no wrong variation within that limit as it is a matter of personal preference.
- Pour the powder into the strainer bag and tie it up.
- Pour the water over the strainer bag and let it steep for at least five minutes.
- Begin kneading the kava with your hands in and out of the water for 15-20 minutes. Add pressure. This will help extract the kavalactones into the mixture.
- When the mixture is a creamy and light brown color the process is complete.
Optional: You may add coconut oil or sunflower lecithin as a healthy fat for better absorption. The drink is best when chilled, so you may pour it all into a mason jar for ease of storing/ serving.
There are other ways to prepare kava that don’t require as much time or supplies and will still give the desired benefit.
You can do this by using a general rule of 1 tbsp. kava root powder to 8 oz. of hot water (not boiling), and mixing them together. The cup must still be strained afterward. Again, there isn’t any wrong variation and as personal preference differs, so does the preparation.
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