I’ve previously written about my experience with kava in Hawaii. Feeling nostalgic, I decided to order some kava from an online vendor. I’ve recently ordered my second batch, and am ready to show you, dear reader, how to obtain and prepare the most potent kava tea this side of Fiji.
Kava (piper methysticum) is made from the roots of a tropical shrub native to the South Pacific. It has been used for centuries by Polynesian islanders for medicinal, ceremonial and recreational purposes. The root is ground and mixed with water to produce a brown, bitter tea. This website has more background on kava, if you’re curious.
The source I use for kava is Nakamal at Home, an online kava distributor in Florida. They sell fresh Borogu kava root from Vanuatu — the most potent in the world. If you’re making kava for the first time, get a kava making kit, which comes with a cloth strainer bag, two coconut shells for drinking, and a pound or two of kava. Might as well go full-on and get the Chief’s Jungle kava, if you’re brave. Pick up 15g of lecithin granules too — it makes a smoother and more potent drink.
The recipe I use is derived from the one on Nakamal’s website [PDF]. The following recipe makes about a quart of potent kava tea, enough for 2-3 people.
2 cups kava root
4 cups warm water
2 tsp lecithin
1. Dissolve the lecithin in a small amount of hot water. Mix the kava root, lecithin and warm water together in a large bowl. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
2. Scoop the wet kava root into the cloth straining bag. Wring and squeeze the kava root over the bowl until it is wrung completely dry. To obtain maximum extraction, rinse the dry kava root once more with warm water and squeeze dry again. You can also use a juicer for this step.
3. Use a mesh strainer or your clean straining cloth bag to strain any pulp from the liquid when pouring it into your serving container
If you bought the kava making kit, you’ll drink your kava from the coconut shells that came with it (about 6 oz.) Gently stir or shake the liquid before pouring. Have a glass of fruit juice handy. Orange juice works well, as well as banana, mango or pineapple. Get the real non-concentrated stuff from the refrigerator section.
Now, hold your breath and slam it down as quickly as possible! Chase it with fruit juice. If you find the taste so repugnant that you can’t finish it, try mixing the kava with fruit juice. It does a pretty good job of masking the taste. It’s generally advised to wait 10-15 minutes before drinking another serving. You should feel kava’s effects after 2-3 shells.
The first thing you’ll notice is that your mouth goes numb. This is temporary, it’ll pass in a few minutes. Upon further consumption, you’ll notice a very relaxing effect. Kava is a natural muscle relaxant, anti-depressant and anxiety reducer. You may also feel sleepy. Kava is said to promote vivid and colorful dreams, in case you decide to go to sleep after consuming it.
A couple words of caution: Don’t consume alcohol or other depressants with kava. Don’t drive after you’ve drank kava. Avoid kava if you have liver problems or an allergy to black pepper. Kava has few side effects, although I’ve noticed mild nausea after excessive consumption.