A Karachite’s version of this classic winter beverage. Garnished with crushed nuts, Kashmiri Chai is known for its stunning pink color with a hint of salt & cardamom.
I sometimes forget how long I have been blogging and it’s when someone requests a certain recipe and I am looking through the archives for that recipe that I realize how long it has been. I started off blogging in Feb 2011 and now it’s October 2015 – almost 5 years.
I usually feel proud of how far I have come but then I see my old posts and cringe. The way I used to write and the photography, especially the photography. Camera phones, digital camera’s, lots of editing via Picasa and now finally a DSLR. There is still SO much that I need to learn but every post is an experiment into what I can do – figuring out the lighting, the composition, new props and crockery to use and of course making the food look as enticing as possible.
This post is a re-adaption of an old recipe. One of the favorites from the archives, especially in the winters. A steaming cup of comforting Kashmiri Chai. A winter delicacy from the north, this is a must have at almost every wedding in the winter season. The pretty pink color of this tea is what makes it most appealing and is usually difficult to achieve due to the technique involved. On popular feedback, I decided to add a pictorial guide with step by step instructions. Unfortunately, pictures in the kitchen could only be taken from the camera phone so they are a bit blurry but this is only to explain the process.
Start with boiling water in a big sauce pan. 4 cups of water yields about 4-5 cups of Kashmir Chai. Once it reaches a boil, add green tea leaves. The ones titled as ‘Kashmiri Chai leaves’ from Empress Market are the best but Tapal Gul Bahar works in a pinch.
Let the mixture boil till it reduces to about half the initial amount.
Add a pinch of baking soda for every cup of Kashmiri Chai. It will bubble and add the hint of pink color.
Let this mixture cook for 3-4 minutes. Notice the dark red/pink color of the tea mixture.
Turn off the stove. Slowly drizzle cold water from a jar (the colder the better so add a few ice-cubes) while pouring and re-pouring the tea from a height; this known as “paitha lagana” in Urdu and this is what makes Kashmiri Chai so difficult to make. Take your time while doing this and add water slowly. Do this for about 10 minutes taking rests in the middle.
Strain the mixture and pour into another sauce-pan. Add milk and wait for the moment of truth. If the color turns pink, you did everything correctly. I keep a ratio of 1 cup milk to 1 cup kehwa but you can increase or decrease it as per your preference.
Add crushed cardamom seeds & salt and let the mixture come to a boil. Let it simmer for at least 15-20 minutes till it becomes creamy and delicious.
Drink as is for an authentic version of Kashmiri Chai. Add sugar and crushed nuts (almonds, pistachios or both) for a Karachi walay version of this classic winter hot beverage.
Kashmiri ChaiPrint Recipe
- Makes about 1.5 litres Kashmiri Chai – 6 mugs/cups or 8-10 tea cups
- 1 litre water
- 4 teaspoon Kashmiri Chai leaves (1 teaspoon per 250 ml cup)
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- 500 ml Ice-cold water or ice-cubes
- 750 ml – 1 litre Milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 to 4 crushed Cardamom/Elaichi seeds (crushed in mortal pestle)
- Sugar – to taste
- Crushed Almonds and/or Pistachios – to garnish
Heat 1 litre water in a large & wide sauce pan. Once it reaches a boil, add 4 teaspoon of green tea leaves. The sauce pan needs to be large enough for pouring and re-pouring the tea later so choose accordingly.
Let the mixture boil for 10-15 minutes till it reduces to about half the initial amount. This usually takes 10 minutes if you are boiling one litre of water but can take longer if you are making a larger quantity. The initial mark at the edge of the pan can be used as an indicator.
Turn heat to low and add baking soda/meetha soda. The soda will bubble up and there will be a hint of pink around the edges. This is what creates that trademark pink shade in the Kashmiri Chai. Too much baking soda can result in a bitter after taste so be careful when adding. ½ teaspoon is good for 1 litre of Kashmiri Chai.
Cook this mixture on medium heat for 3-4 minutes and it will turn into a dark brown shade with hints of red. Turn off the heat.
Fill a jug with 500 ml of ice-cold water. Add a few ice-cubes to make sure it is chilled.
Take a large spoon or soup ladle and stir the tea mixture by pouring and re-pouring it from a height. This is known as ‘paitha lagana’ in Urdu. Pour and re-pour using one hand and add ice-cold water slowly from the other hand. Continue doing this for at least 5-10 minutes as this is what brings out the pink color.
Make sure you use a big saucepan as this will create a bit of a splatter especially till you get the hang of it. Clean up the splatters after you are done with this step as they are difficult to clean once they are dry. Once you are done with the ‘paitha lagana’ step and the color of the tea is dark red, strain it another sauce pan.
The Kehwa for the Kashmiri Chai is ready and can be poured in a jug and kept in the fridge for a week or so till you decide to add the milk to make the chai. Based on the quantity in the recipe you should have around 1 litre of Kehwa.
Heat the Kashmiri Chai Kehwa in a sauce pan. Add milk to taste. The ratio that I prefer is 1:1, that is for every 500 ml of Kehwa I add 500 ml of milk. If you prefer it creamier than you can add more milk and if you find the milk version to be too heavy then you can add more Kehwa.
Add crushed cardamom seeds, ¼ teaspoon of salt and sugar (if using). Bring to boil. Once it comes to boil, lower heat to simmer and cook for at least 15-20 minutes. If you are making a larger quantity then keep on simmer for longer. Keep an eye on the tea to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
Taste and adjust salt & sugar content if required. If you want it creamier add a bit more milk and if you think it is too creamy then add a bit more Kehwa. Pour into mugs and add crushed almonds and pistachios for garnish.
Kashmiri Chai is made from green tea leaves but these are not the Jasmine tea leaves that are regularly available. The best Kashmiri Chai tea leaves in Karachi are available at Empress Market and can be found by asking for ‘Kashmiri Chai’ leaves. They are also easily available in Lahore & Islamabad. One can also use the green Gul Bahar brand by Tapal. It won't have the same flavor and color as the fresh leaves, but it is easily available in small and big supermarkets across the country.