As soon as you arrive in Vanuatu, locals will start telling you everything about Kava, inviting you for Kava and you will be able to see sparks in their eyes when anyone mentions Kava.
What the hell is Kava?
A plant – more exactly the root’s essence is being extracted with water. Served in ‘shells’ (bowls) you get Kava in Nakamalas all across the island. Nakamalas are local bars, which only serve Kava and a couple of snacks (to get rid of the taste of Kava). If you want to imagine one of the bars, you have to picture the most dogdy bar you’ve ever been to and you’re still not close, as Nakamala’s look more dodgy. It is a palm hut, which is dark apart from a couple of lights (Kava makes your eyes super light sensitive), everybody whispers (you guessed it, Kava also makes you sensitive to noise). Once you get your shell, you go to the side of the bar to something which resembles a pisoir, you chug the shell and spit into the “pisoir”
Now you get the picture – it’s dark, everybody whispers and spits and chugs an unidentified liquid.
Saying that – Kava tastes pretty much like watered down mud (or how I would imagine mud to taste like) with a very bitter aftertaste. You spit as it feels like you have something stuck in your throat, which is really hard to get rid of. Your mouth goes numb and usually you crave something sweet to make the taste go away – that is why most Nakamalas sell snacks/fruit.
The effect of Kava hits some people faster than others. Food apparently accelerates it. You relax, feel intoxicated without impairment on your mental state (so you can still think straight) and you get sleepy.
In Vanuatu Kava substitutes alcohol and cigarettes and is a cultural tradition done by everyone and as common and part of society as going for a ‘pint’ in western countries.