Farmers uprooting kava plants by hand.

Characteristics of Premium Quality Kava Powder

Kava is a plant that is native to the South Pacific, and its roots are traditionally used to make a ceremonial drink. The quality of kava is determined by a number of factors, including the variety of kava plant used, how it is grown, and how it is processed. Some key factors that can affect the quality of kava include the age of the plant, the soil and climate conditions in which it is grown, and the extraction method used to make the final product. High-quality kava is typically made from the roots of mature plants and is processed using traditional methods that preserve the plant’s natural compounds.

Premium quality Kava powder or Yaqona used as a food must come from noble kava plants, be clean and free of dirt and foreign matter, be dried properly, processed in modern factories, be matured to at least 3 years of age, have fresh aroma and high percentage of kavalactones.

Kava products used as food can be in the form of fresh kava, dried kava or kava extract.

Fijian Varieties of Kava

The word kava refers to the Piper Methysticum species and or to the traditional beverage obtained by cold water extraction of the plant’s drinkable parts. The kava plant parts proven to have a history of safe traditional usage are:

– roots (unpeeled),
– stumps or rhizomes (always peeled).
– basal stems (always peeled)
Any other parts apart from the
above is not safe for human consumption.

The Fijian varieties are:

  • Loa kasa leka
  • Loa kasa balavu
  • Vula kasa leka
  • Vula kasa balavu
  • Matakaro leka
  • Matakaro balavu
  • Dokobana vula
  • Dokobana loa
  • Qila leka
  • Qila balavu
  • Yalu
  • Damu
  • Yonolulu

Quality Factors

Products made from kava will often be a pale brown or grey color.

Before being harvested, kava plants should be mature (often at least 3 years old).


Products made with kava will have its distinctive scent. The smell will not contain any additional scents that would indicate plant contamination.


The first three elements of the chemotype for kavalactones must be present. 2, 4 and 6 (in any order). Any cultivar that lacks this chemotype is not acceptable as it is a non-noble variety.

Defects in dried kava

Dried kava can be of low quality if it has been damaged by insects, affected by mould or have a stale, foul aroma. Extraneous material, eg soil, dead insects, or leaves also reduces the quality. Excessive moisture of more than 12% by weight or ash content of more than 6% 

Other Factors

Since Kava is considered a food in Australia, Kava sold in Australia needs to comply with the m aximum levels of the Codex General Standard for Contaminants and Toxins in Foods (CODEX/STAN 193-1995).

Furthermore it is recommended that kava is prepared in hyginic conditions during drying, processing and packaging. Package labelling needs to include the name of the product (root powder, dried kava, kava extract, kava drink), the location of cultivation, part of plant in content (lewena or waka) and the variety of plant which is verified by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Country of origin must also be clearly specified. In Australia, precautionary warnings needs to be prominently displayed namely “Use in moderation. May cause drowsiness.”