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We work as ecotourism guides (as well as biologist and boat captain) often on the BC Coast, but also as far ranging as the Arctic and Antarctic. We have an insatiable curiousity for the planet; all its hidden gems and what makes them tick. That and our love of sailing is what inspired us to sail around the Pacific in Narama, our tough and pretty little sailboat.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Kava in Vanuatu

Sunset Kava Bar in Lamap; host Fidel in centre

Lamap on Malakula Island seemed to be Kava Central, with 14 kava bars (nakamals) for its population of only a few hundred.  Our first taste of this peppery, muddy brew was in Vila at a feast we attended.  This really was a thick sludge and I’m glad it was only a small taste and not the usual full bowl.  Possibly it was made from a powder which made it thick.  The usual way to make it is much more interesting.  It takes a few years to grow a Kava plant to produce several kilos of kava root.  The root sells for 250 Vatu/Kg and Vanuatu Kava is the strongest in the South Pacific (or so we were told).  We couldn’t work out the exact ratio but it seems that you need a few kilos of root to make a bucket of kava to drink.  They diced the root into small cubes, give this a rinse and then put it through a mince meat grinder (or on one island they pounded it in a large improvised mortar and pestle). Traditionally this stage was acheived by young boys chewing the root, but times have changed.  Water is then added to the mash which is wrung out through a hessian sack a bit at a time.  The whole grinding and wringing process is then  repeated.  Finally the silty muddy product is poured through a fine cloth.  A ladies slip seemed to be the correct weave.   This sieving out the sediment was done many times during the production and I’m sure it was the reason that Lamap kava was more palatable.  Kava bars in Lamap come in all shapes and sizes, but the norm was a thatched roof with seating underneath.  I think Fidel’s “Sunset Kava Bar” had the most character of all and he was proud to say that he had many regulars.

Stephen takes a turn grinding Kava root for Louie

First it gets squeezed through a hesh sack

Then it gets seived through silk (or fine nylon) several times
The Kava plant;
it takes at least three years before the root can be harvested

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