If you are in Samoa, you will see alot of men drinking a cultural drink. It is known as Samoan Ava. It is a little different than the Fijian Kava. It is loved by the men, detested by the wives and sold to all.
As a backpacker to Samoa, it would be cool to try some Samoan Ava for yourself. If nothing else, it is an experience that you will not have in the United States (beside in American Samoa).
There is alot of culture to this and many religious leaders in Samoa are complaining that the men are overdoing the custom. This is a common back and forth between the people and the pastors all over the Pacific.
What is Samoan Ava like?
As I said, there is alot of culture that surround the Ava drink. While I was in Samoa for months, I never really understood it all. There is a system of hierarchy that is followed and several special movements involved. The men in the evening don’t follow this but for cultural events, it is followed religiously.
The Samoan Ava is a root that is grown on island and when it is pounded down and mixed with water; it becomes a fermented cultural drink that is called Ava. It is my understanding that one root can take up to 5 years to mature before it is usable for the drink.
The mixing bowl is a huge bowl made of wood that someone has taken great pain to make. It is sanded down and craved up very nicely. The “bowl” that is passed around is a shell of a coconut that is well cared for as well. Samoans are very serious about their Ava.
In reality, it is a big business sector in Samoa. They will spend big bucks on anything connected to it.
What you need to know about it
If you are asked to join a ceremony in the village, make sure you sit next to the men and sit “Indian style.” (legs folded) Wait until the bowl is passed to you, drink it in one movement, pass it back and clap.
Also, make sure you thank them for the time and including you in their cultural event. It means alot to them. I wish I could tell you more about Samoan Ava but my experience was mainly with the men at the market drinking out the 5 gallon paint bucket.
It makes a great gift too!
If you are going to a village to do something, pick up some Samoan Ava at the market to give to the village men. It will make them being cool with letting you surf much easier. You will become their newest best friend when you hand them pounded Ava.
Just don’t give them too much or the wives won’t be too happy. The men will be drinking it all evening and nothing will get done around the fale but lot of drinking with other husbands.