A trip to Fiji isn’t complete without some kava, the country’s national drink. Known in Fijian as yaqona, or by its colonial nickname “grog,” kava is a muddy, earthy beverage that calms you and numbs your mouth and throat. And if you drink enough, you’ll feel a mild euphoric buzz. It’s made from the powdered root of a pepper tree called piper methysticum strained through a wooden bowl full of water.
Kava is always accompanied by a ceremony where people gather around the kava bowl and drink from coconut shells. The practice can range from a formal affair with guests to an informal happy hour among friends, accompanied by guitar playing and singing. Participants clap once before and three times after each drink.
Kava has been consumed across the southern Pacific for thousands of years, and in Fiji it was a drink only for a male chief or priest and his advisers and their guests. Shortly after Fiji gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1970, social changes inspired Fijians to open the kava ceremony up to everyone, and Fijians happily share it with tourists. We had ours at the Namale resort in Savusavu.