Kashmiri Chai – the beautiful pink tea

I have been feeling so grateful and happy for the past month. My sister and her family are visiting me in Philly from Denver after two years. The last time I saw my niece and nephew, they were 8 years and 9 months old. My nephew was crawling everywhere then… and now at nearly 3 years old he is running around and speaking in full sentences. He calls me by my name, “Leena, come here.” “Leena, look at this” and I melt every time. He is the cutest Mashallah! My kids are having a blast, juggling online school and playing with their cousins. Sleeping late and having difficulty waking up. The struggles of having maximum fun! And as for me, I’m trying to soak up as much time with my sister and her kids as I can. I know this is a very unique situation with online school and work so trying to make the most of it. How are you all? Is it finally winter where you are? It’s been raining in Philadelphia for the past three days and it’s cold! The combination of rain and cold winds is not my favorite. I like the crisp fall weather where you can get by with a cozy sweater and not worry about the fat parka. This transitional weather phase also makes me feel dull. To combat this weird laziness and because my sister loves Kashmiri Chai, I spent the last two weeks making Kashmiri chai atleast 4 times. I have nailed the perfect Kashmiri Chai recipe finally and am so excited to share it with you all! Believe me when I say how good this chai is and my excitement in sharing with you because I am writing this blog post in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep! 😂

Kashmiri Chai also known as gulabi (pink) chai or Noon (salty) chai is a traditional tea beverage originating from the Kashmir Valley region. This chai is traditionally salty as sugar is not added in Kashmir but in Pakistan it’s most often served with sugar and nuts (for non-Kashmiris who are not accustomed to drinking salty tea) at special occasions, weddings, and during the winter months. This chai is not only pretty with its pink hue but it tastes amazing too! The Kahwa is flavored with cardamom and cinnamon and then mixed with sweet milk and topped with nuts. It’s sweet, creamy, milky and deliciously nutty!

The first time I had Kashmiri chai was in Lahore, Pakistan. We were visiting my uncle (my Taya) and his family during winters in Lahore. My Taya (May he Rest In Peace) took us all to drink Kashmiri chai at a famous road side stand. I was hardly 10 but I still visually remember that amazing Kashmiri chai. It was cold and all the kids were piled at the back of the Suzuki. The chai boy was passing around big mugs that on first glance looked full of some white foam and topped with nuts. I took my mug and felt my cold hands warm deliciously against it. Peering inside I saw that the white stuff was not foam at all but a thick blob of Malai (cream from buffalo milk). I immediately turned up my nose as I always disliked the taste of Malai. My mother sensed that I was going to return my mug maybe because she got hers and saw the Malai and knew my aversion to it so she called me to try it without making a big deal about the Malai. My Taya also started convincing me to take a few sips and not worry about the Malai at the top. I hesitated but since it was getting colder, I finally took a sip. And oh my! What heaven! It was the most delicious tea I had ever had. Creamy, milky, flavored with cardamom and topped with pistachios. Even the Malai tasted so creamy and good. So delicious! That memory stuck with me and since then I’m in love with Kashmiri chai. Granted the road side tea experience in Lahore can never be beat but I have found the perfect way to make this delicious tea at home.

To get the perfect tea and color, a few important tips:

  • Start with cold water.
  • Add baking soda when the tea starts simmering
  • Let the tea cook for an hour
  • Shock the hot tea with ice cold water
  • Beating the shocked tea for atleast 20 minutes is key. The aeration helps bring out the pink hue and enhances the flavor of the tea.
  • You can store the tea after it’s cooled down in a glass bottle refrigerated for a week.
  • If you follow all the steps and tips I have mentioned then I can guarantee you will get the most beautiful natural pink color.
  • Kashmiri Chai

  • Serves: 6-8
  • Ingredients:
    • 6 cups cold water
      3 tbsp Kashmir tea leave (gunpowder tea leaves)
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/2 tsp baking soda
      7 pods of cardamom, crushed
      1 small stick of cinnamon
      2 cups of ice cold water (1 cup water and 1 cup ice cubes)
  • To make one cup of tea:
    • 1/2 cup whole milk
    • 3 tbsp evaporated milk
    • 1 small cardamom, crushed
    • Sugar to taste
    • 1/3 cup prepared Kahwa

    Method:

    • In a deep and preferably stainless steel pot, add 6 cups water, 3 tbsp tea leaves, salt, cardamom and cinnamon and put it on medium high heat.
    • As soon as the water starts simmering (around 10 minutes) add in the 1/2 tsp baking soda. Mix well and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
    • Lower the heat to low and simmer uncovered for an hour.
    • At the end of the hour the tea will be dark maroon in color.
    • Now get your 2 cups of ice cold water ready. Move the hot tea pot to your sink as things get messy now.
    • From a height, drop the ice and cold water into the hot tea pot. Take a big mug and start vigorously beating the tea. Fill the mug with tea and let it fall back into the pot like a waterfall from a height. The tea will start foaming. Keep doing this with no stops for at least 20 minutes. Your arm will get a good workout and it will feel like it’s about to fall off. 🤣
    • Strain the tea into a glass bottle. Your kehwa is ready to use.

    To make one cup of tea:

    • Simmer whole milk, evaporated milk, sugar and cardamom in a small saucepan.
    • Taking a whisk, add in the prepared kehwa till you get a beautiful pink color.
    • Remove the cardamom pod and pour the tea in a cup.
    • Serve topped with crushed pistachios.

    Hope you try my recipe of Kashmiri chai and love it like my family does. Please share your feedback in the comments below. I would love to hear from you. I also have a step by step video tutorial on my Instagram highlights on @Leena.ali. I hope you find that helpful too.

    With love,

    Leena 💕

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