Michael is half Fijian-Indian. His dad was born and raised in Fiji. Wanting to explore his islander roots was one of the reasons he went to UH Hilo (and met me!). So for our wedding reception luau, Michael requested I make a popular Fijian drink, kava. I wanted to make him happy, so I said yes…but being a little Polish white girl, I knew nothing about it. I had before in Hawaii, but I had no idea how to make it. So I did some research.
Kava is made from the ground up root powder of Pacific pepper trees and water. It is a social drink, normally drank with good company to create good memories. It is especially popular among young men, as a way to bond. It is notorious for sedative and slight hallucinogen qualities. It is not like you are gonna have an acid trip, but you will definitely feel more relaxed and open.
Then Michael sent me to a Kumar’s Island Market, a Polynesian store in San Jose. It was small, rundown looking building. It reminded me of almost every building in Hawaii, so I loved it. The store is really small, but if you want anything from the islands, this is the place. The guy was really nice and got me enough kava powder for the party.
Then I still have the problem of making it…and Michael had no idea because his dad never really taught him how. “It’s like making tea,” was my only clue from him. So I turned to YouTube! I found tons of videos on how to make it. This is video I based my recipe on:
This recipe makes 2 gallons, enough for 30 people.
2 gallons of purified water
1/2 lbs kava root
1 large mesh or nylon strainer bag
Bring all the water to boil. Turn off the heat.
Add the kava to the strainer bag. Do not tie the end yet.
Dip the strainer back into the water while still holding the open end (do not let go yet). Spoon some of the water into the bag to ensure all the powder gets wet.
Now tie the end of the bag and let it float. Cover with a lid and let it steep for 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and let it cool a bit.
Once it is cool enough, start ringing out the strainer bag into the pot. Once it dries out, dip in the water and ringing it out again. Repeat this 3-5 times.
At this point, I got Michael and had him taste it (did not think drinking a sedative was a good idea while pregnant). He said it was great so I served it. Traditionally kava is drank from coconut shells. We only had 6 of them, thinking everyone would not want to try it at once. We were wrong. All our guests wanted to do a big toast at the same time, so we had to pass out plastic cups.
Everyone said the minute it hit their lips, their whole mouth went numb. And it continued to numb all the way down. Most were good with just one cup, but quite a few came back for more. I will have to wait until after the baby is born to try my version of kava. Good thing we still have half a pound of kava powder left! When I tried it in Hawaii, I remember thinking I needed to become one with my chair or else both of us would cease to exist…fun times 🙂
Kava is truly unique experience, highly suggest you try. Make a bowl and share with your loved ones.