Fiji Kava vs. Vanuatu Kava and Others
The Differences in Drinking Kava from Fiji or Vanuatu
Generally speaking, there aren’t a great deal of differences between drinking Fiji Kava and Vanuatu Kava.
Though all kava in Fiji comes from noble varieties, it’s the Waka Kava strain from Fiji that is usually the one you can buy in Australia. It is known as being the top one of the “heavy” varieties. By that, I mean it is the one to drink if you are looking to relax your body without being highly euphoric. This relaxing effect comes about from the kavalactones in the Waka roots powder. Hence, this makes it ideal for people for social occasions. After all, that is when we want to be relaxed. As a side note, people also use the relaxing body effect for medical and health benefits.
Vanuatu exports the largest range of noble variety kava strains to Australia.
They range from the “heady” to the “heavy” varieties (although none are as ‘heavy’ as the Waka from Fiji). In brief, the following types from Vanuatu are the most popular and strongest strains in Australia:
Kelai Kava – From Epi Island. This boutique kava cultivar is on par with the heady qualities of Melo Melo.
Borogu Kava – Comes from three of the major provinces in Vanuatu – PENAMA, SHEFA and SANMA. Borogu is easily the most popular of Vanuatu kava types within Vanuatu. In fact, it is this variety which is commonly found in the majority of nakamals. This is mainly because of its quicker yield time and size. This means that the kava growers get a better return on the use of their land and on their labour. So, they grow lots of it. It’s also an excellent all-round kava. Most kava types land in either the “heady” or the “heavy” camp. However, Borogu is a lovely balance of both. It gives a nice euphoric buzz coupled with a relaxing body effect.
Whilst we understand that the greatest rivalry between kava-producing countries appears to be that between Vanuatu and Fiji, we must accept the reality that Tongan Kava is the biggest exporter of kava to Australia! In fact, nearly 50% of all kava imports into Australia are from Tonga. Now that premium Tongan Kava is available in Australia in the form of Moana Premium Kava, the competition has become intense!
Finally, there’s Instant Kava. Fiji doesn’t have the capacity to produce it whereas Vanuatu does. It is made by dehydrating fresh green kava juice which then forms a very fine powder. This often referred to as the “10-second kava” because it only takes that amount of time to prepare it.
One of the beauties of Instant Kava also is that it’s the ideal mix for preparing Kava Cocktails and Smoothies. Check out some of our Kava Recipes here. Finally, it’s an unfortunate situation that some so-called instant kava available here in Australia is simply micronised root powder – unpleasant to drink and not as effective as the real stuff. All our kavas are fully certified as being of noble variety. So, please be aware of the difference.
And remember: “The world’s a better place when you drink kava!”
Fiji is an archipelago consisting of some 300 islands and 540 islets scattered over about 1,000,000 square miles (3,000,000 square km). Of the 300 islands, about 100 are inhabited. The capital, Suva, is on the southeast coast of the largest island, Viti Levu (“Great Fiji”).
Fiji has a market economy based primarily on tourism and agriculture, the latter including a substantial subsistence sector dominated by indigenous Fijians. Subsistence farmers earn supplementary cash income from cultivating copra, cocoa, kava, taro (locally called dalo), pineapples, cassava (manioc), or bananas or from fishing.
Kava is generally grown and cultivated in Kandavu, Savu Savu, Koro Taveuni, Rambian, and Gau Islands. Moreover, due to its growing popularity throughout the world, Kava production is an ever-increasingly important aspect of the Fijian economy.
Many features of traditional Fijian life survive; they are most evident in the elaborate investiture, marriage and other ceremonies for high-ranking chiefs. Suffice to say, the drinking of yanggona (kava, made from the root of Piper methysticum) takes place not only as a part of important ceremonies but also as a part of the everyday life of Fijians and Indians alike.
What are the different types of Kava Root in Fiji?
Kava root is the main part of the plant used to create kava powder and drinks. In most cultures, all parts of the root combine to create kava.
In contrast however, in Fiji people use the roots separately. As a result, the main roots are Waka and Lawena, both of which are used to create different kava drinks.
Here in Australia, it’s generally the kava made from the Waka root that is drunk.
Vanuatu, similarly to Fiji, is also an archipelago, thought somewhat smaller in size than Fiji. It consists of 83 islands with the capital being Port Vila on the island of Efate. Whilst Fiji has a population that’s fast heading towards 1 million (925,000 in 2021), Vanuatu’s population is only around 300,000.
Did you know that there are over 200 varieties of kava in Vanuatu? Notwithstanding that, it is important to understand that there are 2 distinct groups that these kava varieties fit into.
The first of these is Piper methysticum (kava) commonly, known as noble kava. It is also known as “yaqona” or “sakau” and has been used for centuries by indigenous people in the Pacific Islands and Melanesia, including Vanuatu. The roots of this plant are used to make a drink that is consumed socially – and ceremonially. The young plants here (on the left) are of the Palarasul variety (pictured here by courtesy of Joseph Brun at Bruns Kava)
Kava is also used medicinally, especially for its purported ability to reduce anxiety and depression. Interestingly, kavalactones,the active ingredient in the kava plant, are known to affect the central nervous system and the brain. Since the parts of our brain that control fear, anxiety, and stress are shown to be receptive to kavalactones, many people will turn to kava for natural anxiety relief. Consequently, kava can be hugely beneficial for winding down and for helping with sleep. Maybe this is why Pacific Islanders have been consuming kava for thousands of years and therefore, amongst the happiest people on Earth.
The second group is the Piper wichmanni, also known as “TuDei”, which grows wild throughout the islands of Vanuatu. It’s called Tudei (Two-Day) because drinking it will often result in a hangover and even feeling unwell for a couple of days afterwards. This variety has been used medicinally for centuries and has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties that may be helpful in treating arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Still, due to the factors mentioned above, tudei kava is not recommended for drinking.
The Differences in Drinking Kava from Fiji or Vanuatu
The discussion around this topic has been going on for as long as kava has been around (3,000+ years).
Do you know where kava comes from? Well, it comes from the islands in the Pacific ocean – mainly the South Pacific. The list includes:
Whilst the above list contains links to information about drinking kava in these countries, we have focused on two only, these being Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu (in that order) – for good reason.
That is, the reality is that the biggest exporters of Kava are, without a doubt, Fiji and Vanuatu, both being in close proximity to Australia. Although in 2022, Fiji Kava exports to Australia amounted to $AUD5.5 million, the US is now easily the largest consumer of Fiji kava in the world. In 2020, the total amount of kava shipped to the United States from Fiji was 3,500 tons.