What is Kava?

What is Instant Kava?

Instant kava prepared ready to drink in a glass

One of the most commonly asked questions from those unfamiliar with kava is – “What is instant kava?”. Well, Instant Kava is a powder made from the kava plant. It’s used as an alternative to kava drinks, which are typically made by mixing kava powder with water or coconut milk. The preparation process for standard kava normally takes about 10-15 minutes. This can deter people from drinking kava as they are normally wanting a social tonic and that is quick and easy. Instant Kava is easier to make – 10 to 15 seconds in most cases. It can be consumed quickly, making it ideal for when you need to get in a quick buzz before heading out for the night.

The Origin of Instant Kava

Instant Kava Powder

Instant Kava was invented in the United States in 1993. Its inventor was a man named Robert Woodruff. As a professor at the University of Georgia, he had been studying kava for years before coming up with his invention. He had come up with a method for extracting kavalactones from kava root and mixing them with water to create a drinkable form of kava.

Woodruff’s method was patented in 1993 and he began selling it under the name Instant Kava-Kava. It quickly became popular among students at UGA because it allowed them to drink kava without having to wait for it to brew or chew it.

Quick Kava

Robert Woodruff’s process used the alcohol extraction of dried kava powder method. This made for a product, that whilst quick to drink, was a little rough in both taste and its ability to be soluble. A few years later in 1998 some kava boffins began working on altering the Vanuatu tradition of preparing kava juice with green kava and water. The principal of this group, James Armitage, developed an aqueous extraction process which, when dehydrated, made a soluble powder. The result was a more refined product than Robert Woodruff’s product.

As is the way in the Pacific, ownership of the aqueous extraction process IP changed hands in nefarious circumstance. This then led to two groups working and refining on an Instant kava product.

Presently there are only 2 groups who are making true Instant kava:

Forney Enterprises

Forney Enterprises

Forney Enterprise kava exporters was established in 2005 by John Fordham. It is located in Luganville, the capital of Santo Island. They are the largest kava processing factory and exporter of kava powders in the world, including Instant Kava. They have refined the aqueous extraction process required for Instant Kava and now export over 5 tonnes per year of it.

El Manaro Pty Ltd

El Manaro Pty Ltd

El Manaro Nakamal was first built in 2010 by Abel Nako. He had a vision to make a local kava bar in Port Vila with the atmosphere of a village located in an large garden setting with plants he had collected from all around the islands of Vanuatu.

Abel has always had a passion for kava and wanted to create something that would not only benefit his community but also create jobs for locals. He founded El Manaro Nakamal to do just that. In 2016, El Manaro expanded into kava production for export and have developed their own aqueous extraction process to make Instant kava. Whilst much smaller than Forney Enterprises, they are starting to make inroads into the Instant kava market.

How is Instant Kava Made?

kava lactones

There is a level of secrecy that surrounds the process and all parties involved wish to protect their market. However, in summary it is made by digging up the kava. It is then ground up and mixed with water, which allows for the extraction of the kavalactones from the root. The resulting liquid is then filtered through a cloth or paper filter, which removes any remaining plant material as well as any unwanted particles or impurities.

Once the liquid has been filtered, it’s ready to be concentrated and dried into a powder! This process helps preserve the kavalactone and makes it into an easy to use soluble format.

Instant Kava Types and Processes

There are only two types on the market today and one is a clear winner.

The aqueous extraction process type

What is Instant Kava?

Instant kava product made using the above-mentioned water-based extraction process is the most popular. The solubility component, coupled with the extract powder literally being micronised dehydrated kava juice, means that you are drinking real juice. The effects are commensurate with traditional kava juice in both uptake and strength.

The micronised root powder type

Micronized Kava

Current milling technology means that kava powder can be milled down to below 1 mm particles. The consistency of baby powder can be achieved in some cases. There are some instant kava products in the Australian market made using this process. The problem with this is that you are literally drinking unprocessed kava root. Your body does not process raw powder in the same way it does traditional kava juice. This means that the uptake of the kava effect is not efficient. It also means that your stomach is having to process dried kava root powder which can cause issues such as constipation and stomach cramps.

Where can I buy Instant Kava in Australia

Now that kava can be imported and sold in Australia, there are several vendors selling aqueous extraction-based Instant Kava. They are:

Australia Kava Shop

Using Australia Kava Shop’s Instant Kava is as simple as putting a half teaspoon into your shaker or glass of water, stirring for 10 seconds and drinking! Their product is made using an aqueous extract process, not yucky alcohol, or chemical extraction—so it dissolves in water with only the same effort as stirring a coffee required! You can see a demo of how easy it is here.

Unlike other supposed “instant” products out there, theirs is made from the green kava juice of Borogu and Palarusal kavas from Santo Island. Every day, farmers bring fresh kavas in from the islands and clean them before juicing under strict HACCP conditions. The juice is then dried out in evaporators and milled into a soluble powder ready to drink!

El Manaro

El Manaro’s instant kava is uniquely made from freshly harvested kava roots is made using the aqueous extraction process. So, you won’t be drinking raw kava root. 200g makes 8 litres of kava juice by simply mixing this kava and water together and stirring.

The resulting product has a taste that is fresh and smooth and the effects are even smoother.