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From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Kava \Ka"va\, n. [Polynesian.] (Bot.) A species of Macropiper (Macropiper methysticum), the long pepper, from the root of which an intoxicating beverage is made by the Polynesians, by a process of mastication; also, the beverage itself. [Written also kawa, kava, and ava.] [1913 Webster]