Traditionally, kava prepared by either chewing, grinding or pounding the roots of the kava plant. Grinding is done by hand against a cone-shaped block of dead coral. The ground root is combined with added to cold water and consumed as quickly as possible.
The effects of a kava drink vary widely with the particular selection of the kava plant and amount. The user’s eyes become more sensitive, the person soon becomes somnolent and it causes a numbness to the lips and tongue.
In Tonga, kava circles, also called a “faikava” (“to do kava”) are nightly. Only men are allowed to drink the kava, although women who serve it may be present. The female server is usually an unmarried, young woman called the “touʻa.” Kava is served in rounds from a large wooden bowl between traditional Tongan songs. After a muffled clap, a bowl of kava is passed around the circle to those that requested it. The kava is consumed quickly and the bowl is then passed back. Kava circles last 8-12 hours and hundreds of bowls of kava are consumed.