Here is some information about the practice of drinking Kava in Fiji. We hope to share some with our Fijian neighbors in the near future as we ask for their blessing to explore the reef. This is an important custom which we hope will put us in good stead with the folks in our area. We've heard that it is a lot of fun as well. - Brooke
Yaqona (Kava) Drinking
Yaqona drinking is a very important aspect of the Fijian culture and one of the favoured pastimes of the Fijian people. Yaqona, or kava, is an infusion made from the root of the kava plant (Piper methysticum – a type of pepper plant). Referred to as “having a grog”, drinking yaqona is done by villagers and urban dwellers alike. Local healers use kava to help cure ailments such as tooth decay and respiratory diseases. It is a known diuretic.
Ancient Fijian cultures used the drink in religious ceremonies and only chiefs and priests partook in the special drink. The traditional preparation was done by young women who chewed the root to blend it with their saliva and make the mildly narcotic effects more potent.
While kava is not an intoxicating drink, it does have its effects (ranging from light-headedness to a mild feeling of euphoria). It is a social drink and a social experience. Today, kava is made without the addition of saliva, and instead is diluted by pounding the kava root in water in the tanoa (a large wooden bowl designed especially for this purpose) until the water becomes muddy looking. There is a certain etiquette to drinking kava and there is still much ritual attached to it, especially in the more remote areas of Fiji.
When the kava is ready to serve, guests (who sit cross-legged facing the tanoa) are offered a drink from a bilo (half a coconut shell). When offered the bilo with kava in it, guests clap once, accept the bilo and say “bula!” , drink the contents of the bilo all at once, then clap three times to show appreciation of the drink. The drink is shared until the tanoa is empty. While it is not necessary to drink every bilo offered, it is considered very rude not to accept the first one.