The Kava Experience
We finally tried Kava the proper way. We had just left the Hindu Temple and were browsing the local shops of Nadi when a Fijian shop owner pulled us into his store. As I’ve found typical of Fijians he asked us our names and had polite conversation before asking us to enter his shop. Once inside, he insisted on a ‘typical’ Fijian welcome before we looked around the store. We walked to the back of the store where a rug was spread on the floor with a large wooden bowl in the center. We removed our shoes and sat Indian style on the floor. He asked one of us to be the chief and began the Kava ceremony. It was all very light hearted, not at all what I expected. There were a few claps here and there and just polite conversation. He allowed us to smell and see the Kava before he put it in the muslin bag for preparation. It looks like fine, gray dirt with a few twigs mixed in. He swishes the bag in the water, squeezes it out, and mixes it with a coconut shell.
The first cup (or coconut shell) goes to the Chief. You clap once before your receive the kava and then clap three times after you hand it back to the preparer. Since I had tasted Kava back in Boca Raton and in the Novotel hotel room I was prepared for a horrid taste and was concerned with the large cup he was about to give me. Fortunately, he must have seen my apprehension and filled the cup about half full, asked me ‘low tide’ and when I hesitated poured out most of the Kava so I could would just be obligated to sip it. Surprisingly it wasn’t bad! It isn’t something I would tote around as a refreshing drink, but unlike my other two experiences I didn’t have the urge to spit it up. There was a faint hint of dirt, but mostly it just left a tingle on the tongue.
I thought that would be the end of the Kava ceremony, but apparently you are expected to finish the entire bowl of Kava. So, we chatted about the various islands of Fiji while we took turns drinking the Kava. The man seemed quite knowledgeable about his country, even though I doubt he traveled very much. He had a very worn copy of Lonely Planet, which he pulled out when he didn’t know a specific question about the island of Taveuni.
Of course he wants you to buy something from the shop. They even offer to ship it back home for you. We are still at the beginning of our trip, so we weren’t looking for souvenirs. We had hoped to buy a little kava, but they only sold it by the kilo. So, we offered to make a small donation; his response was to give us ‘gifts’ of two necklaces, a turtle for me and a shark tooth for Paul. We were happy to pay $20 Fijian dollars ($10USD) for the necklaces, even though we didn’t want them. The Kava ceremony was definitely worth the price and I highly recommend this shop to anyone who visits Fiji. It is a few blocks down the street from the Hindu temple, just a few shops up from the large tourist shop “Jacks”. The shop is called Maqa I Viti and according to the owner, it is the ONLY Fijian owned shop in the town. I’m not sure if I believe that, but all the other shops we entered were operated by Indians. The mailing address is P.O. Box 532, Main Street, Nadi. Phone: 679-670-7019, and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.