Come and enjoy the magic of kava (1), the traditional Melanesian drink! Kava does taste special (an earth like taste 😉 ), but what makes kava tasting really unique is the atmosphere surrounding kava drinking. More than the beverage itself, “kava drinking is a social act where people gather at the end of the day to quietly discuss “.
Sometimes called kava “bar”, the nakamal (2) has not much to do with a bar. Nakamals are generally open air sites; they welcome the whole family in a quiet and peaceful environment. Feel the soft breeze, smell the smoke of a fire burning in one corner of the nakamal, watch some kids playing with a dog and listen to the sound of waves on the beach: that is the kava experience!!!
The kava history in New Caledonia is fairly recent but it has become very popular in the past 15 years and we recommend you get a chance to experience kava drinking (3).
More than 100 nakamals exist now in Noumea. You can obvisously find some nakamals on Google but most are not advertised and finding them can be tricky ;). Contact us, and we will guide you to the best nakamals on the island.
A few facts about kava:
(1) The kava is a traditional Melanesian drink made from the root of a plant “Piper methysticum”, which is a “cousin” of pepper. Kava has a relaxing effect. It is found throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures but is mainly consumed in the Melanesian islands of New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Solomon islands.
(2) The nakamal is the place where kava can be drunk: traditional nakamals were used for meetings and ceremonies, as well as for the preparation and drinking of kava. Nakamals used to be restricted to men.
Nowadays, the most prominent function of nakamals is the preparation and drinking of kava and women are welcome in all the nakamals we know in New Caledonia.
(3) You can also go to a nakamal and ask for bottled water. You get 90% of the experience ;). Otherwise, if you opt for kava, just know that it is served in a recipient called the shell. Usually, the shell is made of a half coconut. You can ask for a smaller or larger shell. Start with a 50 Pacific Franc (CFP) which is about 0.40 AUD to taste it and if you like it you can order larger portions (100 or 200 CFP). Enjoy!