Enjoyed for thousands of years as a vigorously prepared beverage, awa is a plant that has many names depending on where in the world it's being enjoyed.
Other names for awa are, kava (Tongan and Marquesan for bitter), ʻava in Samoa, yaqona in Fiji, sakau in Pohnpei, seka in Kosrae, and malok or malogu in certain areas of Vanuatu.
Awa, as it is known in Hawaii (and kava in places other than Hawaii), is a plant that’s known for its relaxing effects and distinctively earthy, bitter and numbing flavor. Loved for its natural calming effect, awa is often enjoyed to promote a feeling of relaxation and ease, naturally and without intoxication. Even though awa does not contain alcohol, people who love it say that it makes you feel more social without losing your inhibitions.
Powdered awa and awa root is earthy and brown. Fresh and dried awa root is a satisfying tapestry of brown and tan.
Awa is sold in powdered form and sometimes in fresh roots. Awa is harvested only when the plant is mature enough to use, so awa that you purchase is always ready to use.
Fresh kava root can be very difficult to find, and we at FruitStand ship it directly to you from our small, specialty farm partner in Hawaii.
Awa is predominantly prepared as a viscous beverage by mashing, squeezing and pulverizing the awa in warm water. This method allows the awa root to expand and release the sticky kavalactones that give the drink its body and heady effect.
Just about every part of the awa plant is edible, and they rarely produce seeds. This is because awa is produced through cuttings and cloning versus seed germination.
Awa grows natively throughout Hawaii. At FruitStand, we source our awa from a specialty farm partner in Hawaii.
While there is not a lot of research confirming the overall nutritional benefits of awa, however, there is a popular breakdown of the nutrients on the internet that claims fresh awa is about 80% water, and the dried form is 43% starch, 20% dietary fiber, 15% kavalactones (that’s the sticky stuff that gives awa it’s relaxing effect), 12% water, 3% sugars, 4% protein and 3% minerals.
Awa is cultivated year-round from mature plants. Once the awa plant has reached between three and five years of age, it is harvested for use. Awa root as well as other parts of the shrubby plant are used for consumption to provide a calming sensation. It takes about four to five years for a kava plant to produce higher concentrations of the potent kavalactones awa is known for.
You can find awa used in drinks like smoothies, shakes and teas, or vigorously brewed to make a potent drink. It is predominantly enjoyed as a beverage.
Awa is better known for its physically calming effect than its flavor. We at FruitStand think there’s something to love in every fruit’s unique flavor profile. Awa has an interesting numbing effect on the palate that’s similar to durian without the funk, or an onion without the sting. The root’s earthy-dirt flavor is similar to a beet, without the sweetness. This complex flavor is far from fruity, making it a taste worth acquiring for the benefits.
Awa is typically enjoyed in a drinkable form. However, it’s possible to add prepared awa to snacks like raw energy bars and yogurt for something more substantial.
Perhaps the most popular way to consume and enjoy awa is by preparing it into a rich beverage, sometimes referred to as tea. Fresh or powdered awa is added to water and agitated vigorously to release the sticky kavalactones that give awa tea its relaxing potency and distinct viscosity.
Awa tea is generally served without the addition of other ingredients or flavors in the brew, but don’t let that stop your culinary creativity. Many awa lovers prefer to chase the beverage with a piece of sweet fruit. Awa is becoming more popular in smoothies and other delicious wellness concoctions, paired with flavors like coconut, pineapple and even chocolate.
Awa is often enjoyed in wide, shallow cups to replicate the experience of drinking the brew from coconut shells.
Leftover prepared awa can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. Fresh awa root should be refrigerated and used within two days. Keep your awa longer by freezing it in a sealed container for up to three months.
It’s best to talk to your vet before giving your dog awa, particularly if your dog has a sensitive tummy or liver issues. Some dogs may be able to tolerate, and even benefit from, small amounts of awa, while others could experience uncomfortable side effects or poisoning. FruitStand will leave this one to the furry friend professionals.
While awa is relatively light in color, it can leave a brownish stain if it comes in contact with some fabrics.
If drips and drops of awa fall on your clothing, table cloth or napkins, first treat the spot with a stain remover that’s safe for that particular fabric. Follow the directions on the product to prevent the spot from setting, and pop the item into the washer as soon as you can.
Awa is the Hawaiian word for the produce known as kava, so in that sense, they are one in the same. FruitStand sources ours from Hawaii, where producers refer to this relaxation-inducing plant as awa. This plant is also known as Piper methysticum (a Latin-Greek mashup that translates to “intoxicating pepper”) or simply kava (meaning 'bitter').
Awa root is often sold dried or in powdered form. FruitStand sources rare, minimally frozen kava root fresh from our specialty farm partners in Hawaii.
If awa spoils, you may smell something a little funky. Pop a new, old-fashioned box of baking soda for your fridge every two to three months to capture unpleasant aromas.