Like most of the chai lovers, I have always been a tea addict. 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 the 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 and relief.
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 Pyaal (A Cup of Kahwa), which is brewed in a traditionally large kettle of copper known as “Samavar”. There is a different type of Kehwa for each occasion – the classic Kehwa, the Milk Kehwa or Dodh Kehwa and the Shangri Kehwa.
Let’s get to know the traditions behind each of these:
1. The Classic Kehwa
This variant of Kehwa is the most popular of them all. It is traditionally served on feasts, weddings and cherishable get-togethers. The kehwa is brewed by infusing the flavors of whole Kashmiri spices into the water, adding a woody hint of walnuts or almonds and a golden hue of Kashmiri Saffron. The tea is served with local crisp bread called “Sheermaal”. The perfect way to hog onto a Kehwa-Sheermal combination is to dip and eat.
Since Kehwa is a green tea, it is loaded with medicinal benefits. It lowers your stress levels, soothes those migraines, relieves cold and flu, controls bad cholesterol and builds your immunity. Who thought a cup of tea could bring in so much relief to the body!
2. The Dodh Kehwa (Milk Kehwa)
Traditionally served on festivals like Eid and the certain occasions of a big fat Kashmiri wedding, the Dodh Kehwa is a milky version of the green tea, made distinct by the presence of cow milk in it. The tea is served with locally made sweet cookies or Pasteries. It is brewed by infusing the flavors of whole Kashmiri spices into a concoction of milk and water, with milk being more dominant, adding a woody hint of walnuts or almonds and a golden hue of Kashmiri Saffron. The Kehwa hence conjured makes a delicacy to be savored atleast once in a lifetime.
3. Shangri Kehwa
Locally known as “Shanger”, the liquorice root when infused into the classic kehwa makes a drink which has been used in Kashmiri households as an age old remedy to cure sore throats, colds and flu and as an immunity booster. The drink is a cup full of health and I would recommend its intake on a routine basis.
All the three variants of Kehwa are magically soothing to the senses. One sip and your day is made. Just like the people in Kashmir.