Drinking Kava in Fiji – Tips for Traditional Island Ceremony

in Oceania

During your stay in Fiji, you will likely come face to face with kava. Fiji’s national drink appears much like dirty dishwater, but partaking in it is an essential part of your Pacific stay.

The national flag of Fiji

The national flag of Fiji

Chiefs offer this ceremonial beverage to visitors as part of village tours. It is a sign you are welcomed into the village as a friend. The drink is prepared using the root of the piper methstyicum plant. While it is non alcoholic, kava’s mild analgesic properties may make you feel lethargic and tingly.

The kava ceremony is serious business. Before drinking, you will sit cross-legged on a woven mat facing the chief. To show your respect, you should wear modest clothes, be quiet, and lower your head. Kava is served in a bilo, or coconut shell. Before accepting it, clap once with cupped hands and say “Bula” to express your gratitude. Clasp the shell with both hands and drink quickly, as you would an alcoholic shot. After downing the kava, return your shell and clap three times before saying “Bula” again.

Kava is best experienced on a village tour, although most lodging you can book in Fiji also have kava nights. This kava is much weaker than that served in the villages, but it’s often more palatable to Western tastes.

Kava is an acquired taste, but tourists should mask their displeasure. The chief may be offended if you do not like the kava, or if you refuse it altogether. Instead, embrace the kava ceremony as a unique part of Pacific culture.

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