Kava is cultivated in many Pacific regions across, Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. Kava has been around for almost 3,000 years, but because South Pacific cultures documented their history orally, it is difficult to tell when and where kava originated. Here’s what we do know about where kava comes from:
Credit for the Western discovery of kava is usually given to Johann Georg Forster. Forster was an explorer and scientist who assisted in making the travel book a favorite genre in German literature. Forster aptly named the plant “Piper methysticum” which means, “intoxicating pepper.” Although Forster is known as having the first detailed description of kava, it is believed that the Swedish botanist Daniel Scholander and artist Sydney Parkinson were the first Europeans to see and document the plant around 1768-1771.
Current evidence suggests that Vanuatu is the birthplace of kava. It is believed that settlers brought Lapita traditions to Vanuatu where they developed practices and beliefs around kava and death, using kava to communicate with their ancestors. Kava was discovered in the islands of the Pacific Ocean: Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. When first contacted by Europeans in the 1700s, the islands of the Pacific Ocean, also referred to as Oceania, were one of the few cultures that didn’t possess a type of alcoholic drink. Although they may not have had alcoholic drinks, what they did have, according to historical documentation, is kava.
The term “kava” is believed to have originated in Polynesia to describe the taste of the plant. There are many variants of kava in the Pacific islands. In Hawaii, kava is called “awa” which means bitter and sour. In Fiji, kava is called “yaqona” which is assumed to mean beverage and bitter. Other names for kava are: “ava” in Samoa, “sakau” in Pohnpei, and “malogu/malok” in Vanuatu.
Kava was used for religious and medicinal purposes. Many believed that kava could cure illness and be used as a portal to the spiritual realm. Kava was widely used in celebrations such as births, marriages, and also deaths. To read more about how kava was used in different ceremonies, click here: Kava Drinking Rituals Around the Globe.
Although the discovery of kava was a couple thousand years ago, it is just now becoming popular in the US. Kava is taking off in cities all over the country because it does not cause mental fog, hangovers, and has very little known side effects. Kava is a healthy and safe alternative to alcohol consumption, and you can find it being served in many cities in the US.
To learn more about the benefits of Kava and to try it yourself, contact us at Kavafied! We are excited for you to start your Kava journey.
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