Whether it is spelled kava (kava kava), or ‘awa (in Hawaiian), there’s no denying that it is one of the most important crops on Hawaii.
Said to date back almost 3,000 years, and brought to Hawaii by the gods, Kane and Kanaloa, it’s historically been reserved for both social events and special ceremonies, including as an offering to the gods for bountiful harvests, when choosing the right tree to carve into a canoe, and right before a traditional hula ceremony.
Kava is consumed in various ways throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia and Australia. Traditionally, it is prepared by either chewing, grinding or pounding the roots of the kava plant. Grinding is done by hand against a cone-shaped block of dead coral; the hand forms a mortar and the coral a pestle. The ground root/bark is combined with only a little water, as the fresh root releases moisture during grinding. Pounding is done in a large stone with a small log. The product is then added to cold water and consumed as quickly as possible.