Drinking tea in Kashmir
In case you've never heard of it, noon chai meaning salt tea, is a traditional Kashmiri tea. Like the Tibetan butter tea which we looked at a few weeks ago, this is a tea which could take some getting used to for the western palette. A warming tea, noon chai serves a particularly useful purpose during the cold winter months. Perhaps its most distinctive quality is its pink colour.The main ingredients are pure green tea, water, whole milk, salt, bicarbonate of soda and the crushed seeds from cardamom pods. Much boiling, stirring and pouring from a height is involved and the addition of bicarbonate of soda also helps in the colour changing process. The tea gradually turns a red colour, which changes to pink once the milk has been added. Ground pistachios and almonds are often sprinkled on top. Another tea that is common in this region is kahwa, a spiced and aromatic tea. Like noon chai, it also requires green tea, but this is a sweet tea, so no salt this time. Its other ingredients include cinnamon, cardamom, crushed nuts such as almonds, saffron and either sugar or honey to sweeten it. Typically no milk is added, though during special occasions such as weddings it is, and the resulting tea is then known as cloud chai.These days there is another more familiar addition to the range of teas prepared in Kashmir- Lipton chai. This is the blanket name applied to black tea with milk and sugar, even when a brand other than Lipton has been used to make the brew, in the same way as we talk about 'hoovering' the living room even though we're using a Dyson, for example.