What's in a name? The meaning of Bula

What's in a name? The meaning of Bula

May 15, 2023

Jeremiah Scheible

The word Bula, pronounced ‘boo-lah’, for us signifies home – our Kava & Kratom bar in Tulum.

But it’s a word filled with many meanings, steeped in the traditional cultures of the Pacific Islands – from Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia, and more.

In Fiji, Bula literally means ‘life’ or ‘to live’ and is a commonly used greeting like ‘Hello!’. If said twice – ‘Bula! Bula!’- it means health. But it’s also a term central to the ceremonial practice of Kava-drinking in the Pacific Islands. Let’s take a brief detour here…

One of our Kavatenders preparing Kava

Kava root has been consumed by the people of the Pacific Islands for over 3,000 years and is still served as a central part of traditional ceremonies in the region today. This is most notably in Fiji when welcoming visitors or celebrating a significant event, such as a birth or a wedding. After receiving a cup of carefully prepared Kava from the ceremony leader, it is custom to exclaim ‘Bula!’ before taking your first gulp. In Tongan and Marquesan, Bula means bitter – testament to Kava root’s earthy taste.

In Bula Tulum, like in many other social Kava-drinking settings from the Pacific to the Atlantic, we say ‘Bula’ to toast our Kava, which pretty much equates to an expression of good health to your drinking buddy. This logically makes sense due to Kava’s well-known life-giving properties – but more on that another time…

So, it’s important to remember the traditional meaning of Bula when enjoying one of our Kava teas, or one of our Kratom beverages (which we'll be telling you all about in our next blog - so stay tuned).We hope to be sharing the word with you soon in our home, Bula Tulum…