Kava is a plant native to the South Pacific Islands. It’s used to brew tea or coffee-like beverages that are an important part of social gatherings and celebrations. The tea is a staple among island natives and has recently emerged on the health scene. Find out more about kava coffee and its potential side effects right here.
What Is Kava Coffee?
Kava is a South Pacific drink that is consumed for its mind-altering effects that can be compared to drinking a glass of alcohol. The drink is an integral part of islander culture and can be found from Fiji to Hawaii. Known as kava tea or kava coffee, this drink should not be confused with Kava instant coffee — an acid coffee dark roast.
Kava is to Pacific Islanders what yerba mate is to Colombians and Peruvians and what hot chocolate is to traditional Andean populations. It’s as integral to social interactions in the island nations as chai tea is to Indian communities and espresso is to Italian communities.
Kava can be brewed using a French press or enjoyed like an iced coffee. The name “kava” means “bitter” in local Tongan dialects, which directly reflects the astringent flavor of the drink. It has notes of a strong cup of coffee with an earthy body and muddy undertones. It can be a shocking experience for the taste buds of beginner drinkers, though local islanders who drink it regularly believe it has a delicious flavor and boasts health benefits.
What To Know About Drinking Kava
Always talk to a qualified healthcare professional before drinking kava tea. The United States Food and Drug Administration released a warning on the potential side effects of kava. These adverse effects include liver damage and liver toxicity. Most of the side effects are associated with long-term use of the beverage. The drink should only be consumed in moderate amounts for short periods of time. Long-term use may cause adverse effects. Some research also shows that brewing kava in boiling water may exacerbate these effects.
Women who are pregnant should avoid drinking kava as research on its potential side effects is still relatively new. Kava may also heighten the effects of anesthesia and other drugs used during surgery. Stop use of kava at least two weeks before any scheduled procedures and let your doctor know if you are drinking the beverage.
While kava isn’t a real coffee, it does deliver an earthy flavor that is rich and bold. It can be paired with food items like Belgian waffles and cream cheese or consumed alone as-is. To balance out the strong astringent notes, add a dash of agave or honey for a sweeter touch.