Kahwah is a traditional green tea preparation consumed in the Kashmir Valley region of India. It is a popular beverage in the local culture and is often served to guests as a sign of hospitality.
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Green tea as a drink of choice has picked up in metropolitan Indian as the “healthy” tea in the last 20 years. But Kashmir and the belt of Ladakh have been savouring Kahwah – a green tea preparation along with other Central Asian countries for a few centuries if not more. The Indian or Kashmiri Kahwah which is now packaged and sold like other green teas is traditionally made.
Green tea leaves are boiled with local saffron or kesar along with spices like cinnamon and cardamom as well as sometimes a dash of Kashmiri rose petals. There is also crushed dry fruits like almonds, walnuts and cashews added, it could be either or all or combination. It is had with honey or sugar as per ones preference.
Samovar, a traditional copper kettle is used to make this special tea that is a great beverage to sip amidst the cold in Ladakh and the Kashmir region. Nor ordinary pots and kettles are used mostly and sometimes milk is added to the tea as it is a great immunity booster for the ill and elderly.
The ancient Spice route that led to India is where Kahwah is said to have originated but when exactly is not clear. With tourists and travellers loving the taste of this authentic beverage just as there are tea stalls all over India, there are Kahwah stalls in Ladakh and Kashmir around every kerb and corner. Traditionally it is served after a Wazwan, the multi-course traditional Kashmiri meal. A shallow cup is how a family would serve it but on the streets of Leh and other towns in the Kashmir Valley, Kahwah is served in a normal tea glass.
The tea is made by brewing green tea leaves with a blend of spices and saffron. The spices commonly used in Kahwah include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and sometimes even almonds or pistachios. The addition of saffron gives the tea a lovely golden color and a subtle floral flavor.
The word Kahwah in the Kashmiri language means ‘sweetened tea’. It is also traditionally referred to as “Mughul tea”. Kangra region is where the green tea leaves come from. It is known to cleanse the stomach, help digestion and weight loss as well as improve metabolism.
Kahwah is typically served in a special copper or brass kettle called a samovar. The tea is poured into small, shallow cups called ‘khos’ that are often decorated with intricate designs. It is customary to serve Kahwah with some form of snack or sweet, such as dried fruits, nuts, or traditional Kashmiri pastries.
The tea is known for its refreshing yet warming properties and is often enjoyed during colder months. It is also believed to have various health benefits, such as aiding digestion and boosting immunity.
In recent years, Kahwah has gained popularity outside of the Kashmir Valley, and can now be found in tea houses and specialty stores in different parts of India and even internationally.
Here are some interesting facts about Kahwah:
1. Kahwah has been a part of Kashmiri culture for centuries and is considered a traditional drink of the region.
2. The word “Kahwah” originates from the Arabic word “qahwa,” which means coffee. However, Kahwah is a type of tea, not coffee.
3. The tea leaves used in Kahwah are usually unique to the region and are grown in the high-altitude gardens of Kashmir.
4. It is known for its aromatic nature and is infused with spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and saffron, giving it a distinct and delightful flavor.
5. Traditionally, the tea is prepared in a special vessel called a samovar, which consists of a water container, a heating compartment, and a tea pot on top. The tea is brewed in the pot while hot water is continuously added to keep it warm.
6. Unlike most green teas, it is prepared by simmering the tea leaves and spices instead of steeping them in hot water. This method gives it a unique taste and aroma.
7. It is often enjoyed throughout the day and is commonly served as a welcome drink to guests in Kashmiri households.
8. Apart from its delicious taste, the tea is also believed to have several health benefits. It is known for its antioxidant properties, aids digestion, boosts metabolism, and provides relief from cold and flu symptoms.
9. It is traditionally served in small, shallow cups called ‘khos’ that are usually made of porcelain or copper. The cups are often embellished with intricate designs and have a distinctive shape.
10. Over the years, Kahwah has gained popularity beyond the Kashmir Valley and is now enjoyed by tea enthusiasts worldwide. In some places, it can be found in tea houses, specialty stores, and even online.