Kava is an earthy drink made from the root of the pepper plant, Piper methysticum, found in the pacific islands. To make kava, the root is harvested and ground down into a fine powder that is then added to water to steep before being strained out, leaving just the earthy drink behind. Traditionally this also involved chewing the root to break it down, but we don’t do that here.
Kava comes in four common forms; Traditional grind, Instant, micronised and extracts. Each of these refers to how it’s prepared. No matter how you make it, the result will be similar. It just depends on how much time you have to make it and how close to the tradition of kava you want to be.
Traditional Grind Kava
At Kavahana, we like to make kava the traditional way. This involves a multi-step process that includes using dried kava root. The plant is pulverized, steeped in hot water then strained leaving the earthy beverage behind. This is how it’s been prepared in the pacific islands for centuries and gives preparers a closer cultural experience that often goes hand-in-hand with drinking kava. In Fiji they use the term Grog to refer to a big batch of traditionally made kava.
- Gather your ingredients and tools. You need:
- A fine woven bag to strain kava root (eg. Mesculin bag is recommended)
- High-grade kava root
- Warm water
- Bowl to mix kava (medium to large is best)
- Small cups to drink from
- Kitchen scale (for measuring dose)
- Measure kava dose. Recommendation is about 10grams (0.4 oz) of powdered kava
- Put kava in strainer bag, tie it off and and place in the bowl
- Add warm-mildly hot water and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
- Mash! Here is where you want to massage or knead the bag. This helps get all the goodness out into the water. It should be looking like a muddy brown now. Do this for about 10 minutes.
- Strain! Strain the kava by squeezing all the liquid from the bag. (You can get up to 3 steeps with one bag so don’t throw this away!)
- Pour in your cup and Enjoy!
For a less intensive preparation process, instant kava is a great option. This form of kava uses an instant formula of kava that’s been extracted from dehydrated green kava roots. This is often referred to as Toss and Wash preparation.
All you need to make instant kava is an instant kava product (here are some of our favorites) and add it to water or your favorite beverage. This form of kava is very smooth, and potent. You usually only need to use 30-50% of the amount used in making traditional kava to get the same effects. It is a more expensive way to make kava due to the long process to prepare it, but may be worth it for the convenience.
If you don’t have, or can’t find instant kava, another way to make “instant” kava is by using traditional kava root in a blender. Simply measure out your kava dose, add it and warm water to your blender, and mix on high for about 4 minutes. Pour it through a strainer bag to catch the kava root and enjoy! This a popular way to make kava as it’s between the traditional and instant methods.
This form of kava is a bit more controversial; it’s a more affordable form of instant kava. This happens by grinding the kava root so fine that the end powder is so fine it’s easily mixed like instant kava powder would be. The process takes extra work, but it;s not nearly as labor intensive as making instant kava.
The problem is that no matter how much kava root is ground down, there will always be a bit of residue and texture from the kava itself. Kava root is very tough and difficult to digest so this form of kava can cause some people to experience upset stomachs more than others. Even the best and most premium micronized kavas have this issue.
It’s often an attractive form of kava for new drinkers because of the price point and convenience. But it’s been known to ruin first timer experience. Because of this, it’s usually recommended that only experienced kava drinkers use this form of kava as they know what to expect with drinking it and are already used to the body and mind effects.
Extracts are condensed forms of an herbal medicine. They are often found in liquid form to be added to drinks, water, or directly under the tongue.
Kava extracts are not as widely known as they aren’t commonly used in the traditional form of the plant. However, they do provide an easy way to get the benefits of kava without needing to make and drink the beverage. Some are even flavored to help with the earthy taste of kava.
No matter how you choose to make kava, be sure you use the highest quality you can find. This will ensure you have a great experience all around.