Determining the Quality & Purity of Kava

It goes without saying the quality and purity of Kava largely impacts the effect it has on the consumer, and how safe it is to consume. Much the same way that microbial contamination, adulteration and/or spoilage in food can make the consumer very sick, these issues are a key concern in Kava shrubs, powder and other Kava products.

Noble vs. non-noble Kava cultivars also plays a major role in the quality and purity of the plant, as well as various other factors related to the Kava roots and aerial components of the shrub.

By educating yourself on what to look for in Kava, you can rest assured you’re enjoying a pure and high quality product every time.


Noble Kava vs. other varieties of the Kava plant

Over the centuries, dedicated Pacific Island famers have meticulously grown Kava in such a way as to retain its most desirable characteristics and curtail its less desirable characteristics (such as nausea and drowsiness). The result is modern Kava, referred to as piper methysticum.

Any varieties of Kava that are grown and harvested in these traditional ways are considered “noble Kava cultivars”. In order to protect Vanuatu’s reputation for authentic high quality Kava, the government introduced the Kava Act 2002 to ensure no non-noble Kava can be legally exported from the country.

Why would non-noble varieties affect Vanuatu’s Kava reputation? Because these types of Kava (locally referred to as two-day or wild Kava) are less likely to deliver the desired psychoactive effects, yet far more likely to cause nausea, lethargy, hangovers and general “sluggishness”.

Noble Kava strains have been safely consumed for many centuries in the Pacific Islands region; rich in quality Kavalactone compositions and low in the less desirable compounds that are typically found in non-noble strains of Kava.

Two Valley Produce is vigilant about sourcing our Kava from trusted local farmers that don’t mix noble with non-noble strains, or mislabel “tudei”, “isa” and “koniak” strains as noble Kava varieties. Whereas non-noble Kava production has become quite prominent in places like Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (mostly for the sake of export, as local consumption is quite low), regions like Vanuatu and Fiji are much stricter with compliance rules and regulations. Two Valley Produce sources our Kava from these countries to ensure 100% quality.


Mixing Kava roots with other parts of the plant unsuitable for consumption

Kava roots are safe for consumption, and they contain the Kavalactones which present us with the soothing and relaxing psychoactive benefits of the plant. However, the leaves, stems and other aerial parts of both noble and non-noble Kava plants contain very little Kavalactone. On the other hand, they do contain alkaloid, which can be toxic and lead to potential health problems.

Aerial parts of the Kava plant have never been consumed traditionally. Instead, farmers use them for the purpose of propagating. Again, Two Valley Produce works closely alongside our trusted Kava farmers to ensure this doesn’t happen to our high quality products.


General hygiene and cleanliness in the farming, packaging and storage of Kava

As with anything being ingested into our bodies, standard food safety precautions must be strictly adhered to throughout every step of the Kava production process. Unlike other forms of tea, Kava powder is typically stirred into cold water. This means that any microbial contamination won’t be “boiled off”, and thus poses a far greater health risk.

Kava roots should be thoroughly scrubbed with clean water, and then peeled with care by experts to remove all dirt and other possible contaminants. Of course, this process also produces a much better-tasting product!

Drying of the roots must take place in a safe and controlled environment. Whereas it’s common in some Pacific Island regions to dry Kava with fire (which may contain pieces of plastic, rubber and other debris), Two Valley Produce has strict drying procedures in place to ensure food safety compliance at all times.


Testing the nobility, quality and purity of Kava products with Acetone

As Kava becomes increasingly popular across the globe, there’s a growing demand for having tests in place to ensure quality, purity and authenticity. The Acetone Test is a relatively straightforward yet effective method developed by Dr Vincent Lebot. It’s not unlike pH testing in swimming pools.

The test involves mixing Kava with acetone to determine whether the solvent turns yellow or red/brown. Yellower tones are synonymous with the Kavalactones that are prominent in noble strains, while the flavokavains found in non-noble Kava will present red/brown colours.

A spectrometer (a scientific instrument used to separate and measure spectral components) is used to detect whether there are high levels of chlorophyll in a Kava sample, and this is a giveaway that there are aerial parts of the Kava plant in the sample.

Standard laboratory testing will identify any microbial contamination, and this is something that Two Valley Produce conducts on a routine basis, in addition to various other stringent quality testing.


Ask us for more details about our quality testing protocols

At Two Valley Produce, our top priority is providing our customers with pure, high quality noble Kava from reliable expert farmers using safe processes. If you’d like more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Learn more basic information about Kava, as well as the different types available and how to prepare it in the traditional style.

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