The Kava, Piper methysticum, is a tropical evergreen shrub belonging to the pepper family (Piperaceae). It is thought to be most likely domesticated from its wild variant (cousin) the Piper wichmanii. Kava was not brought into Melanesia, but rather "discovered" and domesticated, a process which might have helped in creating the 80 or more varieties present in Vanuatu. Some of these nobles of Kava then found their way eastward to Polynesia and westward/northward to Papua New Guinea and micronesia through migration and trade.
In New Zealand a member of the Piperacaea family also exist, called the Macropiper excelsum, more commonly known by its maori name "kawa Kawa", which reflects its bitter taste and its resemblance to its tropical relative Piper Methysticum (Kava). Kawa kawa is also a popular Maori medicinal plant. Kawa kawa is not noble Kava and is not used as such.
As a drink
The Pacific beverage from the plant, also referred to by the same name - Kava, comes from its ground basal and lateral organs. The ground "mash" is mixed with water and strained through coconut fibre (muslin cloth is a better substitute), stripping the insoluble active ingredients (Kava lactones) off the fibrous rootstock, resulting in the Kava infusion. The beverage has been used in ceremonial and social occasions for centuries throughout the Pacific.
Dried milled or pounded Kava, which is what we and other e-shops sell, is more of a Kava tea than "fresh green Kava" and therefore the taste is not at all unpleasant, just a bit peppery. Experienced Kava drinkers will immediately gauge the strength of the brew by the taste alone. Obviously fresh Kava will have that green harsher taste than what our customers will experience.
Vanuatu Kava products taste better as it is required by law that all commercially processed Kava must come from peeled basal organs. Removing the skin results in a huge reduction in bitterness (the excessive bitterness in the skin is the plants natural defense against disease and foraging animals).
Visitors to Pacific's Kava drinking nations will usually try atleast one shell. This will not give that euphoric feeling but rather the more local mouth and tongue numbing effect. The effect is due to two local anesthetic active incredients of kava called kavain and the dihydrokavain. It is an unavoidable course to the kava euphoria.
Warning: Kava may cause drowsiness.
Kava is a magical plant that does not lend itself to abuse. The taste and numbing effects of the mouth, tongue and stomach instantly weeds out those who are just in for a quick fix. Kava euphoria comes to you, not the other way round. I find that if you are genuine and paid your dues to the Kava "Gods" (ie. giving Kava a fair go and gone through a few instructed sessions) then the door of 3000 years of enjoyment will be opened unto you.
The Kava εuphoria
Kava euphoria is not comparable to a high or drunk feelings of other social brews. The experience is mostly associated with a subtle buzzy feeling that is enhanced in an environment of low lighting, and lower decibels. Good quality Kava can only be enjoyed if the consumer pays detailed attention to their session setting. A quiet and peaceful conversation with friends (and even enemies) will run its course, that even your most difficult issues can be given a good deciphering.
Need more information?
There is a large body of information based on sound scientific research available on the web and other media on kava if you do need more information on Kava.
The legality of Kava
Kava is perfectly legal for sale in New Zealand, but comes with the following warning from the Food Standards Warning and Advisory Statements and Declarations Guide to "USE IN MODERATION'. Please find out if the country you are ordering from allows mail orders of Kava to save any unnecessary destruction of your parcels.
Our last word
If you are going to use kava as medication, please consult your doctor. We at JustPacific Trading promote Vanuatu Kava as an alternative to your usual social brews.