Kava kava, or commonly known as Kava, is a herbal remedy that’s native to the islands of the western Pacific, where they usually drink it during ceremonies, promoting relaxation and inner peace. It comes from the Polynesian word “awa,” which means bitter. The Kava plant has a heart-shaped leaf with a woody stem and is scientifically called Piper methysticum. In making kava tea, traditionally, a paste is made from its roots and mixed with coconut milk or water. Today, people have made powder and tablets from dried kava roots. Upon drinking, it is said to relieve anxiety and stress, and it gives a euphoric effect. For that reason, some use Kava tea for recreational purposes because it has a calming effect called anxiolytics.
How to Make Kava Tea
Most people think that kava tea preparation is the same as regular tea or coffee. They believe that it needs to be brewed or dissolved in water, but kavalactones, the active ingredient of kava, are not water-soluble. Traditionally, it should be softened, physically agitated, and hydrated in order to activate the kavalactone resin.
To start, you need traditional ground kava powder, a strainer bag, and warm water. Here is a step-by-step procedure on how to prepare your own kava tea from ground kava roots:
- Put approximately 35-40g, or less than half a cup, of traditional ground kava powder in the strainer bag and place it in an empty bowl.
- Pour warm water (approx. 35-40C) directly into the bag and make sure not to spill the powder inside. Let it sit for a few minutes.
- Secure the top of your strainer by twisting it and gently pressing it to remove excess air. Then begin kneading the powder in the water.From time to time, twist it to strain the water out.
After a few more kneadings, your water should turn densely brown and should be a bit oily, which means the kavalactones are activating in the water. It is recommended to use force so everything can be extracted, but be careful not to rip the strainer. Then your kava is ready!
If you don’t have any ground kava around, there are stores that sell instant kava, but in the early 2000s, it was reported to be withdrawn from the market in Europe and Canada. Other countries still sell them after that, and they haven’t been taken off the market in the U.S.
Making instant kava tea is simpler than making traditional kava tea. All you need is instant kava and water, and here’s how:
- Buy your instant kava at the nearest store. You need about 3 teaspoons (10–15g) of it for a single serving.
- Add it with two cups of cold water. It is preferable to use purified water, but you can substitute soft drink or fruit juice if you prefer.
Unlike traditional grin kava tea, instant kava is way easier to make, especially if you are in a rush, because it is thoroughly processed, getting rid of the chunk of wood.
What To Do To Enjoy Kava Tea
Kava tea should be drunk quickly to prevent the sediments from settling down, and it’s not that pleasant to sip it slowly because of its bitter taste. Think of it as a vodka shot. You can also follow it with a chaser like coconut milk or fresh fruit juice. Drink one shell of kava at a time and take 15-20 minute breaks in between, as it takes time for the kavalactones to take effect.
Kava has a “reverse tolerance” phenomenon, which means the effects of kava may not be felt for the first couple of times of intake. Sometimes it takes days for first-timers to feel its benefits. It is also preferred to drink on an empty stomach. Try not to eat anything for 3 or 4 hours if you want to drink kava tea, but it is also good to have light, warm meals half an hour after every session.
There are things you need to remember when preparing kava tea so you can enjoy it afterwards. Some tips are:
- The kind of strainer bag you use matters. Classic “Fijian-type” strainer bags, cheesecloth, t-shirts, socks, or nylon stockings are commonly used as strainers, but these don’t filter out that much and sediments still get through, which is bad when you intake them. Traditional ground kava may contain hard fibers or wood chunks from its roots, and it may cause nausea and stomach problems if taken. Good quality strainer bags are advised to produce finer and smoother drinking beverages.
- Knead, knead, knead. It makes a difference how many times you have to make a difference.Use enough force to really extract the kavalactones, producing a densely brown and oily tea. It is recommended to knead for 10 minutes maximum and to squeeze the bag carefully to remove all the water.
- Second Wash. If you think you can’t handle the bitter taste of the first squeeze, you can add half of the original amount with warm water to have a “second wash” using the same bag of kava. It will become much weaker than the first but will have the same effects.
- Hot Issues. Most people automatically use hot water when it comes to preparing tea or coffee, but when making kava tea, it is recommended to use warm water of approximately 30–40 C. Using hot water or boiling kava will worsen its taste and can result in a potent beverage. It will also alter the chemical properties, making it less pleasant, so it is not recommended.
Kava Tea Combinations To Try
- Kava tea, as well as a combination of iced tea and lemonade
- Kava tea with coconut milk, coconut water, and chocolate syrup
- The earthy flavor of pumpkin spice and the bitter tang of Kava
- The tropical fruit flavor of Guava Kava Colada
These are some of the ways on how to make kava tea taste better. The effect of a kava drink lasts a long time and may vary depending on the strength and variety of the kava that you drink. The euphoric and uplifting effects can last for anywhere between 1–3 hours, while the stress-relieving effect can last longer, which will make you sleepy. So, if you will be driving, don’t take any kava drinks because they are like drugs that make you high. Be cautious and aware so accidents can be avoided.