Fiji Kava – Is it really worse than Vanuatu Kava?
Fiji Kava is not as popular as the Vanuatu Kava, which is more potent and has a better taste. Fiji Kavas are often made to be mixed with other drinks like ginger beers or coffee. Fiji kavas can also be used for medicinal purposes such as muscle aches and joint pains and supplied in pill form. The Fiji Kava can also help in reducing stress levels. However, Fiji Kavas can take about 45 minutes to an hour before they take effect on the person’s mind and body while Kava from Vanuatu sometimes takes less time – around 30 minutes to an hour before its effects are felt. Fiji Kava (Kava from the island of Fiji) is also known to be weaker in potency especially when discussed in some traditional Kava bars.
The Vanuatu Kava is often called the “champion” of all kavas, and it is no wonder why – with its high potency and good taste. It is also considered a ceremonial drink and is used on important occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and during other ceremonies.
In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between Fiji Kava and Vanuatu Kava. All the way from drinking kava, understanding different kava roots, how different island nations and pacific islands use kava, the negative side effects of kava, kava harvesting practices and more.
Table of Contents
- Fiji Kava – Is it really worse than Vanuatu Kava? (covered now)
- Who has the strongest Kava, Fiki or Vanuatu?
- Where did Kava come from?
- Fiji Kava Taste, Smell and Potency Compared to Vanuatu Kava
- Fiji’s Fresh Kava Root Farming Practices
- Fiji’s Kava Distribution Practices
- Which is Cheaper? Vanuata Kava or Fiji Kava?
- Fiji’s Kava Manufacturing Practices
- Kava Culture in Fiji and Vanuatu
- The Issues with Kava in Fiji and Vanuatu
- Vanuatu Kava – Why is it better for Kava consumption?
So let’s get stuck into it..
Who has the strongest Kava, Fiki or Vanuatu?
Vanuatu kava has higher levels of Kavalactones than Fiji Kava. Kavalactones are the compounds in kava that give the drink its psychoactive properties and play an important role. Fiji Kava is often lower in potency because it is weaker in terms of the levels of kavalactones it has.
Fiji’s kava is not as potent in comparison to Vanuatu’s kava when it comes to the concentration level in terms of the percent of weight that is made up by active ingredients in Fiji Kavas. However, research shows that Fiji kavas are still effective in providing relief from anxiety and stress, as well as a sense of euphoria and relaxing feelings.
Where did drinking Kava come from?
The origins of kava are unknown, but it is believed to have originated from either the Polynesian or Melanesian Islands. It grows best in tropical climates and is found in countries such as Fiji, Vanuatu, and Tonga. Kava is also found in some parts of Hawaii.
Each south pacific country has kava bars and in those, you will find people claiming that the kava drink came from their country but at the end of the day, nobody really knows.
Fiji Kava Taste, Smell and Potency Compared to Vanuatu Kava
Fiji & Vanuatu Kava Taste
Fiji Kava taste is often described as earthy, woodsy and having a musty aftertaste. It is not as sweet as the Vanuatu Kava. Vanuatu Kava, on the other hand, has a sweet taste and a more fragrant smell. When you brew the drink/beverage as tea into a cup, it’s important to have a good taste. This is because depending on the strength of the kava you are consuming, you might have to drink a lot of the grog to get the relaxation effect. If it doesn’t taste very nice to you, you will want to drink less and less from your bowl. So make sure your Kava is strong and tastes nicer like ours!
Fiji’s kava potency is weaker in comparison to the Vanuatu kava. What this ultimately means is that you have to drink more Fiji Kava to feel its effects compared vs Vanuatu. Fiji kava takes effect 45 minutes after drinking, while the Vanuatu Kava takes 30 minutes.
Piper Methysticum is important in this comparison because this is the plant that Fiji Kava and Vanuatu Kava come from. Fiji kava has a lower concentration of piper methysticum than Vanuatu’s kava which contributes to your kava drinks being weaker. Go to different kava bars in Fiji or Vanuatu and you’ll be told all about this.
So overall, you have to drink kava in higher quantities to get a stronger feeling if you are drinking Fiji Kava – but this is also open to interpretation and different manufacturers. The reason this matters is that lots of people actually don’t like the taste of Kava, so drinking less to get the same feeling is a better idea.
The smell of Vanuatu Kava is more fragrant than Fijian Kava, which has a more earthy smell when made into the tea that pacific islanders (and people overseas) drink to help with anxiety disorders and make them feel relaxed. The more earthy smell is a result of Fiji kava plant being made up of more mature roots, so Fiji kavas have a stronger smell. Some people just bare with the smell to get a relaxing feel from drinking the grog, and others actually like i. So it’s up to you to decide and you won’t know until you order the bundled root powder (kava powder) and try for yourself!
Fiji’s Fresh Kava Root Farming Practices
Kava dplant farming in Fiji is a major industry and Fiji is one of the world’s leading suppliers of fresh kava roots. Fiji has been growing kava for over 3000 years and the country has a long history of producing high-quality kava. Fiji’s climate and fertile soil are ideal for growing kava, and the Fiji Islands have a rich tradition of harvesting and preparing kava.
Kava harvesting in Fiji is done by hand and the Fiji Islanders have a long tradition of harvesting and preparing kava. The root is the most prized part of the plant, and the Fiji Islanders are known for their skill in selecting only the best roots for processing. The roots are carefully cleaned and then sun-dried before being ground into a powder.
Kava is harvested from the root of the plant, and the best quality kava is from plants that are at least four years old. The roots are dug up with a special tool called a yaka, which is a type of spade with a narrow blade and a long handle. The yaka is inserted into the ground next to the root, and then the root is pulled out by hand.
After harvesting, the roots are cleaned and then sun-dried before being ground into a powder.
Vanuatu Kava Farming Practices
But Vanuatu is also one of the most famous island nations in the south pacific known for making kava (powdered kava made from the kava plant and mixed with water to make kava drink). In Vanuatu, the farming practices may be less harmful to the environment compared to Fiji but they still use many of the same tools and practices.
The kava plant is grown in Vanuatu and due to favorable climate, plantation owners are able to take full advantage of the lush tropical greenery found on the island. Farmers use natural soil, compost enzymes, and manure for fertilizer which results in better quality kava roots. There are three types of kava plants; tudei (two day), piper wichmanii (the most common variety), and sapotaceae or guttersonidia speciosa (a rare variety). The tudei kavas have stronger effects than the other two varieties but they also require more time after harvesting before they can be consumed.
Fiji’s Kava Distribution Practices
We should examine the distribution and commercial importation of the fiji and vanuatu noble kava root. Different countries food and agriculture organization committees, as well as pharmaceutical companies, have different policies on distribution so we need to ‘unearth’ these. Fiji’s kava production is one of the world’s largest and Fiji exports approximately 100,000 pounds of dried kava root each year. Fiji has a population of only 90000 adult men while there are around 1 million Fiji adult females so this isn’t surprising.
Vanuatu also produces a significant amount of kava but their main export market is Europe. Most of the kava exported from Vanuatu is the Tudei type, which has a stronger effect than the other two types but also requires more time after harvesting before it can be consumed.
Kava is classified as a dietary supplement in the US and is therefore not subject to the same import restrictions as medicinal products. Fiji exports Fiji kava to the USA and there are no import or export restrictions placed on Fiji kava. Vanuatu also exports Vanuatu kava to the US and EU, but in some cases their shipments of Tudei types can be held up at customs because they contain higher levels of active compounds that are thought to cause sleepiness.
In Australia, commercial importation of Kava is restricted to the Tudei type of kava. The Australian government is concerned about the health effects of high-dose kava consumption, and they have placed restrictions on the importation of all types of kava crown root but they have allowed the noble root as a powder for commercial importation if you have a permit to import so only buy from those with that permit when making your drinking kava.
Is Vanuatu Kava cheaper than Fiji Kava?
Vanuatu kava prices are very similar to Fiji’s price. Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu all have a large first world population and Fiji and South Pacific islanders still rely on farming for food so Fiji has not been able to offer lowered prices or more ‘powerful’ kava to the world market. Fiji’s prices are usually lower if you purchase bulk kava but Fiji has a very high minimum order requirement so Fiji doesn’t offer low prices for everyone, only Fiji residents can have Fiji kava shipped directly to their homes which means Fiji costs more than kava from Vanuatu unless you buy a large amount.
So when buying kava in Australia, there is no definitive answer to which country is cheaper. It is more to do with which commercial importer offers lower prices on delicious bundled roots of kava turned into powder from the pacific islands. At Australian Kava we like to think we have some of the cheapest prices on traditionally confused kava from different cultivars. Check out our kava store to see what we can offer.
Fiji’s Kava Manufacturing Practices
There are some slight differences between Fiji and Vanuatu kava manufacturing practices. Fiji has a large international shipping port but Fiji does not have a nakamal or traditional kava bar, Fiji’s company only exports Fiji kava also the European Union requires that all Tudei have been processed to extract their active ingredients so Fiji is unable to export the official noble root. Fiji kava is therefore exported as Fiji raw root (which means that the Tudei requires further processing before it can be made into an official noble root) to Vanuatu which has traditional kava bars where the Tudei is prepared for consumption. Fiji’s shipments of Fiji raw root are then sent from different nakamals (a traditional meeting place in Vanuatu) in Vanuatu to Fiji companies that then add different strains of noble kava from Fiji and Vanuatu’s cultivars.
This means that even though Fiji has a high export volume of Fiji kava, Fiji exporters often process the Tudei in Vanuatu before shipment so there is a possibility of different types of noble or Tudei kava being in a Fiji kava shipment. Vanuatu’s exports are only of the noble type, as the Tudei is not exported from Vanuatu.
Fiji’s Kava Manufacturing process is as follows:
The fresh roots are harvested and cleaned then sun-dried for a few days. They are then pounded into a powder with a large stone mortar and pestle. The powder is then packaged and exported usually from Suva.
Vanuatu Kava manufacturing process:
When ready for harvest after being cultivated, the roots are collected and cleaned before being washed in fresh water to remove dirt and debris from the root. The removed lateral roots are then sliced into smaller pieces for sun-drying. The smaller slices are placed on trays for sun-drying, which allows more of the lateral surface of the roots to come into contact with air and dehydrate. Once dried, they are cut up and ground into a powder with a traditional stone pestle and mortar. These are usually then exported from Port Vila and sold internationally to Australia, the Pacific, and the rest of the world. The Kava plant and its manufacturing represent a huge part of the Fijian and Vanuatu economy.
So, what’s the difference?
Vanuatu’s Kava Manufacturing Practices are fairly similar. However much like alcohol, there is a strong checks and balances process to ensure that the effect the plant and plant root has is safe from harm. In Vanuatu, this means that the root must be washed in freshwater to remove dirt and debris from the root before being sun-dried. But most commercial importers of Kava will also have strict guidelines to ensure the food-based product (Kava itself) is high quality and safe – especially following regulations from the world health organization on these things. Some Fiji Kava companies are even Australian stock exchange-listed and import to Australia, so it’s important that they get it right all the time! Especially given Australia and it’s strict import regulations. They usually are safe from these companies and the beverage people make from the kava is generally safe from these companies & others.
During Fiji’s kava manufacturing process (and really, it mostly depends on the company that is harvesting the bundled roots), if a piece of stem or fibre is found it can still be processed into dried root powder. This means that Fiji kava has a very high amount of ‘lateral roots’, which are also known as ‘tray roots’. Tray roots contain many of the same active ingredients as the actual lateral root but in much lower concentrations, this means Fiji kava has a lower concentration of active compounds which results in Fiji kava having a weaker effect, much like a coffee with less caffeine!
To pacific islanders, the manufacturing process is important because it is representative of the Fiji culture. Fiji kava is made using an old method which some people feel makes Fiji kava more authentic than Vanuatu’s methods. The older methods are also better for large commercial companies because they don’t require as much care and attention to convert the root into powder form suitable for packaging, Fiji Kava is often preferred by large companies because Fiji kava is easier to manufacture than Vanuatu kava.
Kava Culture in Fiji and Vanuatu
One reason Fiji kava has a strong cultural identity is that Fiji has been growing Kava for centuries in Fiji whereas most of Vanuatu’s current Kavas has only been around since the 60s. Fiji was also one of the first Pacific countries to begin exporting their kava, so Fiji has had a long time to refine its cultivation and manufacturing techniques.
Kava drinking from a cup has been a cultural norm in Fiji for centuries, and the drinking of kava is an important social ritual. In Fiji, men and women drink kava together in a ceremonial setting, and the act of sharing kava is considered to be a symbol of respect and friendship. Kava is also used as a means of dispute resolution in Fiji and can be used to settle arguments or disagreements.
In Vanuatu, the drinking of kava is also considered to be a social ritual and is often enjoyed by men and women together. However, in Vanuatu it is considered to be impolite for women to drink kava from the same cup as men. In Vanuatu, kava is also used as a means of dispute resolution and can be used to settle arguments or disagreements.
The Significance of Kava in Fiji and Vanuatu
The Kava plant is an important part of the culture in Fiji and Vanuatu and is considered to be a sacred plant. In Fiji and Vanuatu, kava is used to celebrate special occasions, mark coming-of-age rituals for boys, and pay respect to Fiji’s chiefs. Fiji residents also believe that kava plant root possesses medicinal properties which can relieve the symptoms of certain illnesses. With the pilot program available in Australia to import kava, these medicinal properties will be something you can test for yourself when you make the beverage. Import is level to Europe, and many Europeans have experienced this too.
The Issues with Kava in Fiji and Vanuatu
The popularity of kava has resulted in the cultivation of kava becoming a big business in Fiji and Vanuatu, and as a result, there are some concerns that the traditional methods of harvesting and manufacturing kava may be being compromised. There is also concern that the demand for kava is having a negative impact on the environment, particularly in Fiji where the consumption of kava is a cultural norm, and Fiji kava is often harvested in large quantities. In Fiji, some people believe that the abundance of Fiji kava may be having a negative impact on Fiji’s reputation, as it has led to Fiji kava being described as ‘poor quality’ when compared to Vanuatu’s varieties.
Other issues with the plant in the pacific islands are, Fiji kava can have a high content of lactones which can cause vomiting and diarrhea, Vanuatu Kava on the other hand may have a low content of lactones, meaning it might not have the same adverse effects. Again, this information needs to be taken with a grain of salt because different batches may or may not have high lactone content and it’s totally up to the harvester and the company responsible.
Due to the popularity of Kava in Fiji and Vanuatu, there is a growing demand for Fiji and Vanuatu kavas outside of Fiji and Vanuatu. Some people believe that this has led to large commercial companies growing Fiji kava outside Fiji. A Fiji politician has accused some international companies of growing Fiji kava in Vanuatu to save money, and exporting Fiji kava without properly labelling the product.
· Many people believe that this is an issue because Fiji Kava needs to grow for a minimum of 3 years before it can be harvested, and Fiji kava plantations are reliant on Fiji’s climate to produce quality products regularly. Fiji Kava plantations have experienced severe weather conditions over the last few years, which has affected Fiji kava harvests. Fiji politician believes that Vanuatu is exporting Fiji kava with low lactone content, which means they can sell it cheaper than Fiji kava, and it is not being accurately labelled as Fiji Kava.
These are issues that have been noted in the past and given some people anxiety over the future of the industry and the culture surrounding it.
Vanuatu Kava – Why is it better for Kava consumption?
Kava bars in the Pacific, Hawaii, and the world in general, are filled with conversation about which is better for consumption, and it comes down to a few things – even just the local culture, traditionally accepted practices and different countries are different in these areas.
Some of the things people say are that Fiji kava is usually missing are the active ingredients necessary for Fiji Kava to be considered high-grade. Fiji’s manufacturing methods leave Fiji kava with lower concentrations of both kavalactones and dihydrokavain than Vanuatu Kava, which means Fiji Kava has a weaker effect than typical Vanuatu Kava (again, depending on the different cultivators and their research.
Fijian kava can be just as strong as Vanuatu kava for consumption, but at kava bars, the chatter will honestly depend on which Fiji kava bar you go to, the company importing Fiji Kava, and which Fiji Kava companies are selling their Fiji Kava in your region. In Australia and local islands, you’ll have to make your mind up for yourself as there will be multiple options of importers to purchase from.
The kava powder that we sell to Australia and the world, is from the noble kava plant and harvested in Vanuatu. The process follows local cultural norms which have been around for centuries and also has structural processes in place to ensure it is commonly high quality ready to be turned into drinking kava providing relaxing effects.
In summary – is Fiji kava really worse than Vanuatu kava?
It really depends on who you talk to and where you are in the world. Fiji kava has been around for a long time, and there are many different opinions on it. Some people believe that Fiji kava is not as strong as Vanuatu kava, and that the active ingredients necessary for Fiji Kava to be considered high-grade are missing. Fiji’s manufacturing methods can leave Fiji kava with lower concentrations of both kavalactones and dihydrokavain than Vanuatu Kava, which means Fiji Kava has a weaker effect than typical Vanuatu Kava. However, in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and local areas, you’ll have to make your mind up for yourself as there will be multiple options of Fiji kava and Vanuatu kava importers to purchase from.
If you’re looking for Fiji kava, check out our Australian kava store here for some of the most commonly used and loved Kava from Vanuatu.