A Divine Sip of Kashmiri Kehwa

I have always been a tea addict. Like always!

And yet I have realized that the classic heaviness of milky teas has weighed me down, besides the harm which the caffeine inflicts upon my body. But the cravings!

My search for a drink which could quench my thirst for tea and yet protect my body from harm led me to a drink which has been deeply rooted into my Kashmiri culture since times immemorial – The Magical Kahwa.

For those who have never tasted it, the Kahwa is a Kashmiri version of green tea with a subtly sweet and aromatic flavor, infused with delicate whole spices. This magical concoction of a drink is brewed by natural ingredients like cinnamon, green cardamom, green tea and cloves, with the added goodness of Kashmiri almonds. The heavenly drink has a light green hue, which turns to gold in the presence of saffron. One sip of the delightful Kahwa will take you into a wonderful trance, soothing your senses and replenishing your soul, besides relieving you from all your stress and anxieties. For many, this tea is an embodiment of solace. (I hope I have done justice to my favorite drink with my words).

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(Credits: Kashmir Box)

The drink is also consumed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some parts of Central Asia. Irrespective of where it came from, the tea has become a part of Kashmiri culture and no festival or gathering in this part of the world is complete without a “Kahwe Pyaale (A Cup of Kahwa), which is brewed in a traditionally large kettle of copper known as “Samavar”. In routine life, it is not feasible to prepare the Kahwa in a Samovar, which is quite large in size. So people like me who like to drink it on a daily basis use an average saucepan instead of the oversized Samavar.

Time for the recipe!

  1. Take a cup of water in a saucepan and add 3 green cardamom, a hint of cinnamon and a few peppercorns to it.
  2. When it comes to a boil, simmer it and put the lid on.
  3. When it gives out flavor, add a pinch of green tea (Kahwe Chai) and saffron and boil for 2 minutes. Simmer for some time.
  4. Add a few flaked almonds for garnishing and you have yur cup of happiness in your hands!

Needless to say, green tea comes with a whole multitude of health benefits. I don’t want to sound like an online doctor here but the Kashmiri Kahwa does bring some relief for migraines and with liquirice root (locally known as Shangir) added to it, it makes a quick remedy for your colds and coughs.

The Kahwa is generally served with a local crisp bread known as Sheermal, but I don’t really like to pair it with anything. Its subtly sweet taste, made woody by the presence of almonds or walnuts is enough to make my day!

 

 

 

 

 

All We Need is a Cup Of Noon Chai

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).

noon-chai

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!

 

 

 

Seasons of Kashmir – Spring is in The Air

I grew up in the valley of Kashmir – a mesmerizing place known for its charismatic beauty, rich culture, a slow paced life, luxuriant Cashmere, royal feasts and much more. I would want to point out here that when the Mughal Emperor Jehangir came to Kashmir, he was so captivated by its beauty that he said the famous couplet

“Agar Firdaws ba roy-i zamin ast, hamin ast-u hamin ast-u hamin ast,” meaning, “If there is Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.”

And being an ardent lover of Nature, I tend to agree with this. The place is definitely a spectacular sight with all its seasons showing off a different type of beauty – one that soothes your senses and replenishes your soul. Kashmir is characterized to four major seasons and my personal favorite is the Spring, (known as “Sonth” in the native Kashmiri language) which begins from Early March and extends upto late April.

So are we ready? Lets go!

Spring in Kashmir is a time when the despondence of the winter skies is overcome by a bright and beaming sun. The earth takes on a refreshing green jacket, while snow-capped mountain peaks glisten in the backdrop like a precious jewel. Daffodils and narcissus (also known as yemberzal) are the first to break the barren winter earth, followed by a wide variety of flowers which fill the breeze with their fragrance.

By mid March, almond blossoms, known as Badam Phulei start gracing the orchards in delicate pinks and whites. For those who haven’t witnessed it, the blossoming of almond flowers is one of the most spectacular things you could ever set your eyes on. Take my word for it!  It is during this time that people – tourists and locals alike – throng the Badam Waer (Badam translates to almonds) which is home to thousands of Almond trees, clicking pictures, spending quality time with their families and surrounding themselves with beauty which I cannot put into words.

almond-blossom

This is followed by the blossoms of cherries, pears, peaches, plums and apricots, which again lends a fruity incense to the air.

Come April and I make it a point to visit the Asia’s largest Tulip Garden before the seasonal beauties wither out. A colorful riot of tulips flaunt themselves proudly, making an awe-inspiring sight as they do!

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(Credits: Getty Images)

But we are not done yet. Take a trip to Pahalgam and you will get to see mustard fields spread as far as the eyes can see in full bloom, their vibrant yellows carpeting the earth in the backdrop of magnificient mountains. And how can we forget our well terraced Mughal Gardens like Cheshma Shahi, Nishat Bagh, Harwan and Shalimar. They too are at their colorful best.

mustard-field

(Image: Huffington Post)

As nature springs forth with a new life, the temperatures are ideally suited to enjoy the beauty of this place. One moment you are dancing in the rain (if you are are a pluviophille like me) and before you know it, you are basking in the subtle warmth of the sun. I must add that colorful rainbows are frequent in this season. Add it to all the beauty I described in this whole write up (yes, I love rainbows too!).

To summarize, the cool morning breeze, songs of migratory birds, blossoms of flowers and everything beautiful are the definition of Spring in Kashmir. As somebody rightly said, “they call it heaven on earth, I call it home”. Cheers!