Fiji Kava Traditions: Yaqona

Traditional Fiji Ceremony | Root of Happiness

Fiji Kava, also known as Yaqona is traditionally pronounced Yan-go-na and is considered by natives to be a plant given to them by the Gods. It is also commonly called kava in the United States, or grog, throughout the Pacific Islands. Each region of the Islands has their own special traditions and cultural rites.

There are many legends surrounding the origins and importance of Fiji kava. From preparation to consumption, there are specific meanings and rituals for Yaqona.

Legends of Yaqona

Some legends in Fiji claim the God Degei created the plant to offer wisdom to the people. Other legends claim the plant sprouted from the grave of a Tongan princess who died of a broken heart.

This may be why for thousands of years, local villagers drink Fiji kava before important ceremonies and rituals. They also drink it to connect with spiritual guides.

Another fable associated with Yaqona is that when a Tongan King visited the island, one of the women villagers did not have anything to offer the king. She sacrificed her baby, serving it to the king after killing it and wrapping it.

The king did not like this and ordered for the baby to have a ceremonial burial. The story ends with the sprouts of the kava plant emerging from the grave of the sacrificed baby.

Whether any of these legends are true, they are embedded in the rich culture of Fiji.

Fiji Kava Ceremony - Bula | Root of Happiness

Culture of Fiji Kava

In Fiji, Yaqona is considered an important staple of the culture. It is what brings people together and gives everyone living there a sense of closeness and feeling of being connected to one another.

Kava ceremonies are held often, even in today’s Fiji. If you plan on attending a ceremony in Fiji, it is customary to take kava with you as a gift.

When welcoming someone to the village of Fiji, kava ceremonies are traditional. Some ceremonies can start early in the morning and extend well into the following morning. No one is required to stay that long. Many people come and go to the celebration.

Fijia kava gives everyone a feeling of goodwill and happiness towards each other. It is not considered rude to come and go as you please from the ceremony. This feeling of goodwill can last six hours or more. This is because of its chemotype properties.


Yaqona has distinct properties that allow a person to relax but maintain an open, clear mind. Yaqona is made from the root of the piper methysticum pepper plant. The plant contains kavalactones that contain ingredients that, when combined, offer relaxing effects.

There are thirteen kavalactone strands. Different strands produce various levels of potency. Yaqona is prepared so that it offers the best experience. It gives you a relaxing, sedating effect. Basically, you feel calm and your muscles become relaxed.

Your mind, however, remains clear. It is almost like you have an increased awareness. You are very mentally alert but at the same time you have a relaxed, happy feeling of goodwill towards others.

Yaqona is not made from the stems or leaves of the piper methysticum plant. In fact, anything made from the stems and leaves is ignoble or bad kava.

Ignoble kava can give negative effects to the user. These negative effects can include getting sick on your stomach. This feeling can last for several days.

Proper preparation of Yaqona is an important part of Fiji traditions.

Yaqona Preparation | Root of Happiness


One person oversees mixing of Fiji kava, along with two others who are charged with serving and getting water as needed. They sit behind the tanoa, or better known as a wooden kava mixing bowl.

Before the mixer begins preparation, they will make a statement that tells everyone they are beginning the process. Most say they will respectfully make Yaqona for the chief.

The mixer then pounds the Yaqona root into a powder, mixes it with water, and extracts liquid from that mixture. It is then ready for inspection by the Chief’s herald.

If the herald feels the texture is not ready for consumption, he will instruct the mixer to make more Fiji kava. They continue to improve the drink until it is considered the right consistency and texture for the Chief.

Clapping and singing and dancing may take place during the preparation period, blessing and giving thanks to the Gods.


On a rectangular mat, the tanoa is at one end and at the other is the village chief and his leaders. There is an etiquette to consuming kava.

When the Chief’s Yaqona is ready to be served, the herald will clap three times and announce the drink is ready. He then serves Yaqona to the Chief.

Coconut shells are used for drinking kava. They are filled and served according to importance within the community. Once the chief is finished drinking, others begin drinking the Chief’s Yaqona. However, they take drinks in order of importance to the village.

The most important leaders in the village drink first.

Clapping before during and after the Chief and everyone else drink Yaqona is an important process of consuming it. In between claps some may call out, “Bula”, which means “cheers”.

Fiji’s culture and traditions are still alive today. Yaqona is a very important part. Fortunately, today, everyone can enjoy the benefits of Yaqona. Fijian kava powder is widely available through reputable kava suppliers. And they can enjoy them daily, not just at ceremonies.

Fiji Kava Consumption Today

Benefits of Yaqona are that it contains a large amount of fiber, making it a healthy drink for digestion. It also gives you the positive effects that alcohol may give you, but without the negative effects of alcohol. For instance, you will feel relaxed, but will not have a hangover.

Also, you can feel happy and in a good mood, without losing mental clarity like you do when drinking alcohol. Long term use of good kava does not lead to damage to the body. Like alcohol on the other hand, that causes damage to several parts of the body.

You don’t have to travel to Fiji to try Yaqona. In modern times, Fiji harvesters have perfected the extraction process. They know how to package the root and ship it around the world. This allows suppliers in the United States to sell good kava to you.

You can enjoy Yaqona in the privacy of your own home or at a local kava bar, which are popping up around the States. With so much access to this amazing product, you can reap the benefits as soon as today. So, here’s to you!  BULA!

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