Kava, called Ava in Samoa, is a Polynesian shrub that has clusters of small flowers and belongs to the pepper family from the roots of which, a narcotic drink can be made. Ava, in powder form, used to be exported from Samoa and was a big money generator but has since been made illegal. We made some a little while back to sell at the market for eight tala per small bag.
Ava ceremonies are an integral part of Samoan culture and drinking Ava, as unappetizing as it is, is something that boys look forward to doing as adults. Traditionally, ava is reserved for men only, unless a woman is being served during a ceremony as a guest or if she is one of the rare females with a matai (chief) title. The taupo (like a virgin princess), traditionally prepares the ava during the ceremony. Don’t feel too bad for girls not getting to drink the stuff because ava powder, mixed with water tastes like dirty water. It numbs the lips and tongue and eventually will make a person quite relaxed and soporific if you drink enough. You can find men sitting around a large carved wooden bowl and scooping the murky liquid with coconut shells in the market, smoking rolled Samoan tobacco and enjoying some in the evening after a hard days work in the plantation or being formally served it during a matai council meeting.
During an ava ceremony honored guests are announced by the orator in loud booming voices before being presented with a coconut shell full of the drink by the tau tu ava. The tau tu ava is responsible for properly delivering the ava to each guest, as they are named, without spilling a drop. The tau tu ava faces the guest from across the fale and holds the cup above his head respectfully. He then jogs to the receiver, places his left hand behind his back while bending at the waist and scooping the cup of ava in an upside down arc to the receiver with his right hand. The cup is taken by the guest, a drop or two is spilled on the ground as “Lau ava lea le atua, soifua” (“This is Ava for the God, Good Health”) is recited. The contents are then drunk and the cup can be either handed or thrown back to the tau tu ava.
How To Make Ava
1. Dig up kava roots and wash them in water until all dirt is removed.
2. Dry cleaned ava roots in the sun.
3. Pound ava roots into ava powder.
4. Sift ava powder into fine ava powder.
5. Serve in various strengths