Origin Of Kava
Unveiling the history of Kava’s origin is like a mystery. There is no proven history for the origin of Kava. Still, it is believed to originate from Northern Vanuatu on the island “Maewo.” this hypothesis is supported by the fact that Vanuatu hosts the most varieties of Kava.
Many thousands of years back, explorers from Australia and New Guinea traveled towards Southern Pacific Islands. Most historians agree that the Piper Methysticum plant, or Kava, was initially grown on the islands of Vanuatu around 3000 years ago. While some believed that it was first used in New Guinea or Fiji.
After its plantation and use in its areas of origin, its popularity reaches the East through islanders and their sailing canoes. It was then introduced in Fiji, Polynesia. And also to New Guinea and Micronesia.
Since the beginning of the recorded history of the South Pacific islands, it is clear that these islands possess the drink, Kava. Kava had developed important symbolic meaning in those areas. A large set of rules and procedures were associated with its preparation, consumption, and distribution among participants.
Discovery Of Kava
According to a historical reference, the Dutch navigators (Schouten and Le Marie) found Kava on the island of Futuna around 1616. Captain James Cook’s voyages to the South Pacific certainly include the discovery of Kava.
The Natural History Museum in London, England, possesses a botanical drawing of Kava that dates back to 1769. George Forster, a journalist, naturalist, and his father (also a naturalist) accompanied Captain James Cook on his second Pacific Voyage. He describes Kava as:
“Kava is a juice extracted from the roots of a plant that is much like pepper-tree. Firstly, the roots are cut down into pieces and then chewed by people (or young girls) who spew out the pulp into a bowl having cold water or coconut. The mix is then filtered through coconut fibres and served in separate bowls for consumption.”
Later on, when the French and English colonized the South Pacific Islands, they banned this ancient practice of chewing Kava roots to activate kavalactones with saliva. They thought it was a disgusting practice. This led to the modern way of pounding and grounding the Kava to drink.
Dispersion of Kava
The Kava plants are found throughout the South Pacific Islands. It is solely due to the men who set out to explore the Pacific ocean centuries ago. Kava was one of the few necessities that were highly valued at that time. The oceanic explorers took it along them when searching for other islands.
The main purpose of carrying Kava was to encounter a more pleasant welcome from the natives by sharing the Kava beverage with them. The spread of the Kava plant to other islands resulted in new Kava Varieties. Today, there are more than 100 Kava cultivators.
With the dispersal of Kava, it became an essential part of ceremonial traditions and cultural heritage on each island. Interestingly, it also plays a significant role in historical legends and lore. There are many ancient stories passed on from generation to generation.
The ancient people seem to be involved in many Kava myths. They related Kava to the sun, sky, earth, water, flora, and fauna. They also associated Kava with features of divinity and gods, including births, deaths, mortality, transformation, and marriages.
The indigenous priests on the Hawaii island used to read bubbles at the surface of Kava brew t determine the gender of the baby and cause of sickness. Kava was also involved in hula traditions and naming ceremonies.
Kava relaxes the mind and body. Initially, it was considered a royal drink, and only Kings could enjoy it. Medical kahunas also used it for several purposes. Chiefs used to drink it before meals. Later on, it was used by fishermen and farmers to relax. Kava serving was essential on feasts and hospitality occasions.
Kava and Various Islands
In the early 1940s, Kava drinking on the Vanuatu island of Tanna was considered a holy ritual. Kava was drunk ceremonially and socially. It was also known as a remedy for various physical ailments.
Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga
Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga are considered the most important centers of Kava usage in ancient times. In those islands, Kava was consumed on social ceremonials and rituals. It also had magicoreligious aspects.
In the past few decades, Kava has regained its importance. It is mainly due to political independence, and reassertion of ethnic values suppressed during the colonial era.
Vanikoro and Utupua
Kava was popular in Vanikoro and Utupua islands. Men used to drink it at burial ceremonies only. Choiseul from Solomons group claimed to have contemporary knowledge about Kava and its medicinal use.
Kava (called awa) was considered a sacred drink on Hawaii island. It was used as an offering to the Gods. It was peculiar to the chiefs, those having high ranks and medical kahunas. Later on, it was also consumed by farmers and fishermen.
It is interesting to learn how Kava was central to the culture of the Pacific islands, connecting modern islanders to their ancestors.
Kava Reaches USA
From Hawaii, Kava made its way to the continental United States. During the earlier 20th century, it was sold in pharmacies as part of concoctions and capsules.
In 1915, the Sears catalog featured Kava. Since then, Kava has gained immense popularity, and many Kava bars have opened up in the US.
Learning the history, traditions, and folklore related to Kava is quite fascinating. You can become a part of this ongoing tradition of Kava drink by buying and drinking Kava. We are preserving this ancient tradition by providing top-quality Kava straight from the Pacific islands. You can visit our store and order the best Kava varieties at an amazing price.