In Tonga, it’s called yaqona, in Pohnpei, it’s sakau, in Vanuatu, it’s known as malok, and in Hawaiʻi, we know it as ʻawa (pronounced ah-vah). It is kava or kava kava, the beverage or extract made from the Piper methysticum plant. Kava was one of the original plants brought to Hawaiʻi over 1,500 years ago. Alongside other canoe crop staples such as taro, sugar cane, and banana, kava thrived in Hawaiʻi, as it did in other parts of the South Pacific, and became a sacred drink. It was utilized by Chiefs and those with high ranks, as an offering to the Gods, and when attainable, a drink for hardworking fishermen and farmers at the end of the day.
Today, kava is still a large part of the traditions and cultures of many South Pacific islander communities, and in addition to being used ceremoniously, is used for medicinal purposes and as a relaxing social drink.