Why Kava Tastes Bad and How to Improve It

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When drinking kava for the first time many people end up saying that it tastes bad. This is a normal reaction because kava at the end of the day is just a root. Here is an entire article on why kava tastes bad and some simple tips on how to improve it.

The reason that kava tastes bad is that it is a root with a bitter taste. After we grind it up and mix it with water you often are tasting this bitter root. There are a couple of things that you can add to improve the taste.

The team here at Kava-Bula always try to make kava time a welcoming time. We do this by making kava taste the best it can for new drinkers and old drinkers alike. Check out some of our kava guides which include taste additives here!

Let’s jump right in ya; here is why kava tastes so bad and how to improve it.

Kava Tastes Bad Because It Is A Pepper Root

Believe it or not kava is actually a part of the pepper Genus of plants. This means that much like its spicy relatives it has a very powerful taste.

On top of this, we don’t use the leaves or stems of the kava plant to brew our kava. Instead, we use the root as this is where the most kavalactones are located. So when you drink kava you are drinking a super strong-tasting root.

That is why the kava drink tastes like dirt or earth. Some people like this bitter taste and others do not. However, for thousands of years the residents of the Pacific islands have been drinking this root drink. The word “kava” comes from the Polynesian language and it means bitter.

New kava drinkers should be told ahead of time that the drink is not the best tasting by today’s metrics. It is not sweet or savory instead kava tastes bitter and a lot like a distilled form of dirt water. However, it does have a signature taste that many people have come to love.

So when you are drinking your next shell of kava be prepared for the bitterness. Do not worry however as there are several ways to improve the flavor of this drink.

How to Improve the Flavor of Kava

There are several easy ways that you can improve the flavor of your next kava drink. This is where kava bars and home brewers can experiment to make some really amazing drinks.

There really are two major ways that you can make kava taste better. First, is by adding flavors after you filter it. This is where you can mess around to discover some great combinations. Second, you can pair the kava drink itself with a chaser which can help mask the flavor for people.

Kava Flavors For Mixing

There are several flavors that we recommend adding to your next batch of kava to help improve the flavor for newer kava drinkers. The first flavor is going to be orange juice concentrate. This makes an amazing combination of bitter/sour and sweet. Many kava bars around the United States have started pairing kava and oranges to make some truly incredible drinks.

Another great flavor you can pair with kava is going to be apple juice. This almost completely neutralizes the bitter taste of the kava. This is my personal favorite and we have made hundreds of kava/apple shells here at Kava-Bula.

You can always experiment with kava flavors. The only thing you need to remember is to always make sure the kava drink is cold. Hot kava not only tastes awful but it destroys the active element of kava; which leaves you with just a bad-tasting drink.

Kava Fruit Chasers

This is another way that you can improve the flavor of the kava. Here you will drink the kava drink normally in all of its bitter glory. After you are done drinking the kava you will then use a chaser to mask the flavor. This is often what you will encounter at kava bars around the world.

Here at Kava-Bula we always recommend having a fruit chaser for your newer kava buddies. This is because they can experience the kava without any additive flavors first to see if they like it. After this they can decide if they want to eat the fruit to mask the taste of the kava.

So what types of fruits should people use as kava chasers? Well, that’s up to you to experiment with. There are a couple that we think fit the kava flavor perfectly. These are pineapples, blueberries, apple chucks, and bananas.

Pineapples are the most common and mask the kava taste perfectly. After this apple chunks and blueberries are a great way to add a sweet earthy flavor to the kava. Finally bananas are extremely good because the flavor will stick around for a long time after the kava shell which helps with the aftertaste of kava.


That’s about it to answering the question of why kava tastes bad and the options there are for making it taste better.

The team here at Kava-Bula experiment with their kava flavors nearly nonstop. We throw in just about anything from fruit to candy to see what we can come up with. The other day we paired some cotton candy with kava and the flavor was actually pretty good.

As always respect the kava. It is a traditional drink that is designed to unite the local community to share stories and help each other out. That is why we always say “Bula” after drinking a shell of kava. This word translates to wishing those around you and your local community good health and fortune. So Bula to you!


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