Ricky Kresslein

Kava - The Official Drink Of Fiji


Kava is a huge part of the culture of many South Pacific island nations, Fiji included. It is a drink made from the root of the kava plant, which grows well in the dark, rich soil of the eastern part of Fiji. When the Fijians mix the pounded root with water it turns the water a murky brown color. It tastes about as appealing as it looks, and provides the effect of numbing the tongue.

Fijians use kava in many ways. Only the chief drank kava when Fijians were fighting each other in the old days. The Fijians would present him with a gift of it, just as they do now, for one of several reasons. Then they would hold a formal ceremony to mix the kava, and the chief would drink just a bit. These days, Fijians often sit around until the early morning getting "doped" on kava.

It is respectful to present kava upon entering a new village, to ask permission for something, say farewell, apologize (even when apologizing for drinking kava on a Sunday or other "taboo" time), as a funeral or wedding gift, ask to begin courting a man’s daughter, and many more reasons.

During special events, like Christmas, funerals, or weddings, the villagers begin drinking kava, or "grog" as they usually call it, early in the morning. They do not stop until the following morning, besides to go to church.

I drank a lot of grog, or "yaqona" in Fijian, during my first year in the village, but I have since slowed down. I typically only drink it on special occasions. If I drink too much I have an insane hangover the next morning. The hangover is not like an alcohol hangover - it is not painful at all. It is a strange feeling that is difficult to articulate. It makes me so lazy that I do not want to do anything at all. I will just lay on my floor or in my bed all day.

I do not like the taste of it or the fact that when people begin getting stoned they talk very little and the social event becomes very boring. It is different from the effects of alcohol in many ways, but this way especially. Alcohol is much more fun because it loosens people up. Grog tightens them down.