Being a typical Kashmiri family, breakfast at my and every other household in Kashmir is considered to be incomplete without a steaming cup of Noon Chai.(particularly with my dad and sister)
For those who have never seen or tasted something like it, the noon chai is a salty and prettily pink variant of tea and makes a traditional beverage of Kashmir, cherished by its people since times immemorial. The robust liquor of this tea is said to have been introduced in the Kashmiri society by a Muslim missionary popularly known as Shah-e-Hamdan at a time when alcohol consumption was deeply entrenched into its culture. The liquor proved to be a perfect substitute for the alcohol without causing any intoxications. Gradually it evolved into proper tea, with milk and salt being added to it by the locals and made its way into every household. It is because of the Salt that the tea came to be known as Noon Chai (Noon = Salt, Chai = Tea).
The noon chai is typically prepared in a traditionally large copper kettle known as “samavar” which is engraved in motifs native to the Valley of Kashmir. Inside the Samovar is another world where the tea secretly brews. It is made up of parallel chambers – one which hosts burning coals which heat up the entire kettle from the inside and the other in which water, tea leaves, cardamom, milk and a tinge of Baking soda are added. The strength of Copper maintains the high temperature required to extract the complete essence of the tea.
And just like Kashmiri breakfasts are incomplete without Noon Chai, the Noon chai is incomplete without the local bread like Kulchas, Sheermaal, and the popular 4 p.m accompaniment “Tchotchvor” (this one’s tricky to pronounce).
To summarize, all we Kashmiris need is a cup of Noon Chai to get going!