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Page: Experience Kava Tasting in Vanuatu's Nakamals

Enjoy a Kava Tasting

What is kava kava, served in Vanuatu nakamals?

Kava kava is traditionally served in a shell. It is made from the root of a specific type of plant that is part of the pepper tree family. Melanesians have used this drink for centuries as a relaxant. While kava is not a drink produced from alcohol, it is certainly intoxicating. Historically, it was reserved as a drink for the chief and was primarily used in ceremonies.

Be aware that kava drink is quite strong. If you have tried kava in Fiji, you will find that the kava served in Vanuatu is quite stronger. Most people find that a couple of shells of kava drink are more than enough to produce relaxing benefits.

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Along with buffet-style food, Feast night guests get to taste kava drink, which part of the ceremony

Kava Plant

The Kava plant has long been admired for its muscle relaxing, diuretic and anti insomnia properties. It has been used medicinally for centuries and is even being sold today for its abilities to relax without causing any negative effects. Today in the United States the Federal Drug Administration allows the herbal remedy to be imported freely and places no restriction on access to this sedative like plant.

Many people who visit the native regions where the Kava plant grows, generally the South Pacific islands, will have the opportunity to enjoy a kava tasting experience. Much like a standard wine tasting, a Kava tasting will allow guests to sample the popular beverage in its freshest state. While most people agree that it has the look and taste of somewhat muddy water, there is no argument about the effects of the beverage. It is well regarded as a relaxant, and traditionally it is the drink of men and not women, though this is a changing tradition in Melanesian cultures throughout the region.

Kava Drinking

Legend holds that the nation of Vanuatu is the original place where Kava drinking first began. A formal Kava tasting experience in the country will require participants to visit a “nakamal” (Kava bar) or attend an organized Kava tasting. They will be asked to drink the beverage from a half coconut shell. Sometimes a ritual clapping procedure is done prior to dipping the shell into the Kava, but this is not always the case. Official Kava ceremonies tend to take place at sunset, “Kava time”, and this marks the end of the work day.

Most people say that the taste is not at all pleasurable, with a slightly medicinal or licorice flavor, but that there is a nice “lifting” after the beverage is consumed. Many visitors who attend a Kava tasting say that they had a mild case of the “giggles” and thoroughly enjoyed their experience.

Kava in Vanuatu

Today the nation of Vanuatu is working to create a strong Kava trade within their country’s economy. Because of their reliance on foreign aid for many national programs, they desire a shift to self reliance, and the popularity of Kava is allowing them to develop a fourth strong industry in addition to the existing agricultural, fishing and tourist trades.

For travelers heading to Vanuatu it is a great idea to fully experience the unique cuisine and culture of the region, and a Kava tasting is one event not to be missed. They often occur in conjunction with a native inspired meal or dining event, and many resorts or hotels can advise their guests on which to attend.

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