How to Drink Kava: Traditional or Instant Kava Root Powder?
These days when people talk about “traditional kava” or “traditional squeeze kava” (versus “instant kava powder”), what they mean is that the kava root has been ground up under strictly hygienic conditions in a food-grade facility, and this dry kava powder is then put into a fine-mesh “kava straining bag” or “kava sieve cloth” and “wrung out” over and over in a large bowl of lukewarm water, until enough of the kavalactones have been squeezed out of it to make a milky greyish-brown bowl of drinking kava, from which individual shells of kava are served, either at a local nakamal or kava bar, or at home. This is generally believed to deliver the finest finished kava drinking product, in terms of smoothness and taste at least, but it does take a little bit of time and technique to maximise the effectiveness of the resulting drinking kava, and the skilful person preparing the kava will have to guess how much kava to make, or there might not be enough to go around without making another batch, or a little bit might be left over in the tanoa, which could sadly go to waste if everyone has had enough by the time the night is through (although that is a very uncommon problem in these parts!).
Instant Kava or Kava Root Powder
Instant kava, on the other hand, is dehydrated green kava juice that has gone through a special process to make it much more soluble in water. The great thing about instant kava root powder is that you can make it one shell or glass at a time, and use exactly as much instant kava powder as will be consumed, with never any worry that any will go to waste, or that there won’t be enough, and it only takes seconds to prepare, with a fast and easy clean-up (just rinse your cup and spoon afterwards, and you’re done!). Everyone can easily and quickly make their own shell, just as strong as they prefer; It really is very difficult to get it wrong, and if you’ve undershot the mark, it takes no time at all to stir up another serving, and you’re virtually certain not to make too much, since you generally are making individual servings rather than giant bowls for a crowd (although plenty of people do serve large groups with instant kava powders stirred into large bowls of water, and are quite happy doing so, as it’s still faster and easier than a traditional squeeze), and within no time you will be able to fine tune exactly the strength and serving size of your perfect instant kava drink.
Although a chemical analysis of instant kava powder tends to show slightly lower quantities of active constituents, more of them are believed to be made available for absorption, and with increased bioavailability comes increased effect, and some people say a faster onset. Interestingly, the process of removing the excess fibre does alter the ratio of kavalactones a little bit, so an instant kava root powder from the exact same plant as traditional kava root powder can actually impart a different subjective experience, which is one reason why it’s worth trying both to see which you prefer.
Instant Kava Powder vs Traditional Kava Root Squeezes
Another factor to consider with instant kava root powders is that with the ease of fine-tuning exactly how much you make on a shell-by-shell basis, along comes better-than-expected value because you’ll never make too much or too little. Once the increased absorbability of instant kava by the body’s digestive system is considered, many people feel that on a drink-by-drink basis, instant kavas are priced very fairly alongside traditional squeezes, not to mention that they are a great option for people who don’t have the time or desire to ritualise the kava preparation so much, or who want a super-easy kava session clean-up.
Personally, I enjoy them both, but tend to prefer instants when I am alone or with just 1 or 2 friends, and traditional blends when there are more than just 3 of us. If you try them both, especially back-to-back so that the differences are more pronounced, you’ll soon see which one you prefer, or if you’re like me and enjoy them both, occasion dependent.
Have a look through online shop at Root & Pestle. Their instant kava powders give a nice smooth drink with none of the “gittiness” that some people might otherwise rightfully worry about. Remarkably, they are about as palatable as drinking kava can be, whilst still hitting hard. The ease with which they go down doesn’t seem to match the high effectiveness of the drink, but it’s wonderful to get a few pleasant surprises in life. I recommend treating yourself to the next level of kava and order a few single cultivar kava root powders today – instant or traditional, the choice is yours, and you can’t really go wrong either way.
To learn more see our Kava Preparation guide.