Kava is a ceremonial drink in Polynesian cultures and is currently being touted as a natural treatment for anxiety. Here's a step-by-step breakdown of how to make Kava tea.
Kava kava root‘s Latin name is piper methysticum, which means ‘intoxicating pepper'. It's closely related to chile peppers and is known for its relaxing and stress-reducing effects.
Kava is native to the South Pacific Islands and has been consumed there for at least 2,000 years.
Recently it's become popular in western countries, especially the U.S. and Germany, as a treatment for anxiety and alcoholism. If you live near a large city, you may be able to step into a kava bar to try some. This is often the best way to get tea made from fresh kava root.
Kava kava is used in some addiction recovery centers as an alternative treatment for alcoholism because it gives the same anxiolytic effect as alcohol, but without the negative side effects, including hangover and addiction.
What Does Kava Do?
Drinking tea made from kava root has a anxiolytic effect on the body, meaning it gives a calm, euphoric feeling. This makes it ideal for treating anxiety disorders.
The compounds in kava that give it its tranquilizing effects are called kavalactones. Research shows that kavalactones have psychotropic effects on humans, including relaxing muscles and acting as a sedative.
If you're interested in trying to make some, you can order kava root in dried or powdered form and make the tea yourself.
The first time you make kava tea at home, we recommend following one of our recipes below for safety.
There are several different preparation methods for making kava tea. They all pretty much end up with the same result, but require differing amounts of time and effort to get there.
Tip: Use room temperature or warm water to make kava.
Using boiling water or even just hot water from the tap will make more potent doses and render the taste and consistency nearly impossible to consume. Using boiling water or even just hot water from the tap will make more potent doses, but can also render the taste and consistency nearly impossible to consume.
The Traditional Method
The most traditional kava preparation is to steep it, similar to tea, and then knead it with your fingers.
- Measure out your dose. A typical dose is 10 grams of kava per person.
It's most accurate to weigh on a scale, but you can also measure out the kava by tablespoon: 10 grams is equivalent to about 3-4 tablespoons of kava powder.
- Add the kava to a strainer bag and close tightly.
A muslin bag tied with string is common, but you can also use cheesecloth, a clean cut-up t-shirt, or any other piece of cloth that will keep the powder contained but allow water through.
- Place the bag into a large bowl and add room temperature water.
About 1 cup of water per dose is traditional, but you can add more or less water depending on how strong you want the finished drink.
- Let the tied bag sit in the water for 5 minutes.
Start kneading the bag gently with your hands in the water for another 5 minutes. It should start turning a light brown color, akin to chocolate milk. Be careful not to let any of the root escape from the bag.
- After 10 minutes, your cup of kava should be ready to drink.
Don't discard the bag, as you can easily get several more steepings of lower strength kava drink from it.
- Chill it. The taste of warm kava tea is unpleasant for new drinkers. Chilling makes it easier to swallow. Add ice cubes or chill in the fridge for an hour if you prefer.
The Blender Method
A more modern method of making kava involves using a blender or food processor to steep the tea. You want to have good quality ground kava root that's been thoroughly dried for this process.
- Measure out the amount of kava root you need and place it into your blender or food processor. 10 grams or 3-4 tablespoons per serving is standard.
- Add warm water. The amount of water you want per serving is 10 to 12 ounces.
- Blend or process on high for 4 minutes.
- Strain the mixture through a cloth strainer. Chill until cold if needed, and drink.
No matter which method you use, adding fat can improve the extraction process. Try making it with whole milk, or an equal mixture of water and milk, for a stronger brew.
The Last Word In Making Kava Tea
Making kava tea is not difficult, but if you have trouble finding supplies to make it in the traditional manner, you do have one alternative: Instant kava products.
You can purchase processed kava plant powder on websites such as Amazon. These products don't need to be steeped or strained.
They tend to have lower levels of kavalactones, but they are very convenient. Simply dissolve them in liquid, like coconut milk, skim milk, or tap water, and drink.
How To Make Kava Tea FAQ
When should I drink kava tea?
Experts as well as indigenous communities who use kava ceremonially recommend drinking it on an empty stomach. The active ingredients absorb into your stomach more efficiently. If you find it makes you slightly nauseous, eat a small snack after drinking such as a slice of fruit or a handful of nuts.
Are kava pills safe?
For short-term use, yes. If you really dislike the taste of traditional kava tea, you can take kava root powder in pill form. Studies have shown that kava pills can treat anxiety disorders and can be used safely for up to six months.