The kava that is enjoyed today at kava bars and ceremonies throughout the South Pacific, and increasingly elsewhere, is known scientifically as piper methysticum, “piper” meaning “pepper” in latin, and “methysticum” meaning “intoxicating”. There are close to 100 different recognized types of kava plants that are typically used for drinking.
The kava plants that are used today are thought to be something of a man made crop. It is believed that kava first grew in a wild form called piper wichmannii. When humans began to realize the intoxicating properties of piper wichmannii thousands of years ago they would replant the seeds of those plants with the most desirable effects. After years of selectively growing piper wichmannii , the plant evolved into the many forms of piper methysticum that are used to create the kava drink that we now enjoy. Experts believe that it was the people of Vanuatu to first domesticate kava, and that its use throughout Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia gradually expanded by way of human migration.
Another interesting fact is that modern kava plants are propagated solely through human cultivation. The plants created through the selective replanting of the wild forms of kava created plants that are completely sterile and can only be cultivated by the replanting of stem cuttings.
At Bula Kava House we bring amazing kava from Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Hawaii to be enjoyed at Portland’s first kava bar. We are always on the lookout for new types of kava to try so our guests can experience the best kava the South Pacific has to offer. Check in regularly to see what we’re serving.