What's new

Kava Fact of the Day Tongan Kava Ceremonies

The Kap'n

The Groggy Kaptain (40g)
KavaForums Founder
Throughout the South Pacific kava has become a ritualistic part of daily life for many, and plays a major ceremonial and social role in many island nations. Today we’re going to focus on Tonga and the way in which kava is consumed. There are three types of basic kava ceremonies. There is the full ceremony that is used to welcome royalty and distinguished guests. A second, less formal ceremony type is performed for meetings of elders, chiefs and nobles. The third is the relatively informal kava circles held for social occasions.

In Tonga these kava circles have specific names based on what audience will be participating, what event is being celebrated, and how the kava is presented. Kava tolo involves the presentation of entire plants at ceremonies such as the naming of priests and high officials. Kava teletele consists of peeled stump and branch and are given to people of high status at formal occasions. Kava taumafa and kava ilo are both formal drinking ceremonies which involve the king and or nobles. A kava club for social every-day, recreational drinking is known as kalapu kava. The kalapu kava club is a growing phenomenon which began in the mid-20th century in Tonga. Previous practices of personal kava drinking at home have slowly been evolving into kalapu. A social kava event held in a kava club or church hall to raise funds for local charities is known as kalapu kava Tonga. The last and certainly not least is where participants gather privately in their own houses and bring their own kava roots to prepare is known as fai kava.

Davis, R.I. & Brown, J.F., 1999. "Kava (Piper methysticum) in the South Pacific: its importance, methods of cultivation, cultivars, diseases and pests," Technical Reports 113917, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. (https://ageconsearch.umn.edu/record/113917)

Tecun, A., Reeves, R., & Wolfgramm, M. (2020). The past before us: A brief history of Tongan kava. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 129(2), 171–192. https://doi.org/10.15286/jps.129.2.171-192