The Kava Ceremony

Known as yaqona ("yanggona") in Fijian, kava is a mildly intoxicating drink made from the pepper plant (piper methysticum). It's used on both important and social occasions–-notably in acceptance of guests or visitors–-and is traditionally accompanied by great ceremony. Those partaking sit in a circle on the floor, a large bowl placed before the leader. The plant is pounded, the pulp placed in a cloth sack and mixed with water in a tanoa (bowl), turning a brownish color. The leader then soaks it up and strains it repeatedly using the cloth before a small bowl is filled and presented to be drunk in one swig. The drinker claps in appreciation a certain number of times before and after drinking, the number varying by region. Most people experience a slight numbing of the lips and tongue, and those who drink a lot generally feel sluggish the following morning. Traditionally the kava itself is supplied as a sevusevu (ceremonial gift) by the guests or party seeking favor of the chief and should be laid before the chief upon arrival at a village. Kava can be purchased at any open-air market.

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