Kahva – no ordinary Cup of Tea, and a Quiz

the cup

A cup of tea is just what I need tonight. Even in this stifling heat. Just the act of making the tea is a sort of unwinding. The relaxation comes as much from the process of making tea as it does from the cup itself. And a cup of tea is what we are going to have.

As a typical Indian, I am a die-hard tea-aholic. And no matter how low-brow it may be, I really love black tea served with milk and sugar. I love the Punjabi tea which is more milk than water that has been boiled with black tea leaves, and some ginger (during cooler weather), and not a little sugar. I also like what I drink everyday – a mix of equal parts (by volume) of granular black tea (Brooke Bond Red Label) and green tea (Brooke Bond Green Label) steeped in hot water for a few minutes to which I add a little milk and just a wee bit of sugar.

It is a cultivated Indian palate that likes green tea. I had to much coax mine πŸ™‚ . The thought of jasmine in anything but my hair was anathema. But, over the years, I have come to like Chinese green teas. Their delicate flavour, often combined with flowers, makes for a refreshing brew that keeps me hydrated in the dry winter months. Some Chinese teas, such as this jasmine ball tea, are total show stoppers!

Kashmiri saffron
The region of Kashmir has had ties with China and Mongolia for centuries. It is likely, that these links brought the green tea to Kashmir. Strangely, the leaves of Kahva are known as Bombay Chai in Kashmir! My guess is that in recent times these tea leaves took the sea-route through Bombay to reach Kashmir, and are therefore, known thus.

But Kahva, also called Mogul chai (mau-gul) in Kashmiri, relies heavily on spices to transform Chinese green tea into a very Indian brew. Remember, the spices are not optional.

Use cardamom pods instead of loose seeds. And, use cinnamon instead of bastard cinnamon. That is πŸ™‚ the real name of the spice sold all over the US as cinnamon; it is actually cassia bark.

Mogul Chai

2 C water
1 heaped t sugar
1 inch piece real/Indian cinnamon
1 cardamom pod
1/2 t Khava tea leaves (or any other non-floral non-perfumed green tea)
2 almonds (preferably Indian – my father swears by them!)
a few strands of Saffron (preferably Kashmiri πŸ™‚ )

In a non-reactive vessel (in which you have never ever cooked any Indian food) take the best spring water you can find – only in the interest of authenticity; Kashmir does have the sweetest springs πŸ™‚ . Or use tap water πŸ˜€ . Coarsely crush the cinnamon and the cardamom pod and add to the water with the sugar. Bring to boil. Gently rub the tea leaves between the palms of your hand and add to the boiling water. Boil for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and let steep for another minute.

Crush almonds medium-fine and divide between the serving cups. If it is a special day, add a few strands of saffron to the cups.

Pour the tea into the cups. If you are going for authenticity, do not strain. There, you now have the most beautiful fragrant and invigourating cup of tea there is! Now, if you could only find a katlam, that plain dry, crusty evening bread (pastry?) with just a hint of sweetness, that the kandur (Kashmiri baker) bakes; perfect to dunk in this ambrosia. [sigh]

Pour yourself a cup, put your feet up, and ponder on this picture of a flower… Do you know this flower/tree?

mystery flower

So you want a clue? The clue is that all of you know this tree! It blooms in March-April in Delhi.

The answer on Friday, May 25. You want a prize? Okay, let’s have the answers, and ideas for ‘the prize’… no promises πŸ™‚

In Praise of Sardines on Kahva


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A self professed urban ecologist!

44 thoughts on “Kahva – no ordinary Cup of Tea, and a Quiz”

  1. I love black teas…my favorite is a blend of lasa and lamsa.
    As for the quiz…I KNOW I’ve seen that flower somewhere…is it guava?

    This seems to have been an easy quiz – it is indeed the guava!

  2. anita, i was planning to make kahva and bought green gunpowder tea just for this purpose. thanks for your recipe. i am hopelessly addicted to tea.

    At least you hadn’t ‘already made it!’ as Pel probably has πŸ™‚ !

  3. Hey Anita-
    I’m the first to comment! I hope. I better write fast! πŸ™‚ I have no idea what that flower is, yet it looks familiar…is it in the rose family? Apple, cherry, almond blossoms? I give up…no maybe not quite yet.
    The tea looks heavenly! Yes, very true about cassia and cinnamon. I call true cinnamon “Ceylon/Sri Lanka cinnamon and the other other as “cassia”. Cassia is tied to so many memories as it is so widely used here in the states, but of course true cinnamon has a better-balanced flavour. Much easier to grind by hand too! πŸ˜‰
    I need a cup of tea, so I’ll try this today as I now have a stock of raw almonds. I promise.

    Nope, sorry, your’s is not the first!

    I used to always wonder how come cinnamon is so cheap in the US thinking it was, in all likelihood, exported from our shores. And, in true American wasteful style πŸ™‚ , large woody quills would be served just to decorate the coffee! But it was not cinnamon at all! But it is a damn good imposter.

  4. I am going to hold back the correct answers for another couple of days! πŸ™‚ So if your comment is not here, you have the right answer!

  5. I do not have such a sophisticated πŸ˜‰ tea palate. I do not drink, coffee, milo, cocoa, ovaltine etc regularly. They are only consumed when I have a desire to have them. Of all, I prefer tea, the plain simple Lipton’s tea in a tea-bag. I like strong tea. I have tried various flavour-infused tea but always found them lacking. Maybe I haven’t had the proper thing πŸ™‚
    I too take my tea with milk and sugar but as a child, when I would visit my uncle and his family in the country side, they preferred to drink black tea and I loved it, especially with a hot sada roti that’s smothered with butter. Ummmmm, so good.

    Cynthia, when it comes to food – we must trust our own taste buds – refined or not πŸ™‚ In India there is a proverb – “Dress to other’s liking; eat to your own.”

    Kahva was the tea of summer vacations in Srinagar – breakfasts of Kahva and kandurwan’s tchot (roti) smothered with butter, of course!

  6. I think of them as entirely different spices! Anita, cassia quills are not only used as decoration in hot beverages, but also the very long ones are GLUED or wired together to make wreaths or other decorations to hang on the wall! Wasteful indeed! I think of all spices as precious things, and then I see those…

    Growing until a vase appears,
    floating languidly over water,
    echoing river solitude…

  7. Ahem. Everyone who knows the difference calls it “true cinnamon” and that is because of its botanical name: Cinnamomum verum. Cassia or Indonesian cinnamon or bastard cinnamon is a related species Cinnamomum aromaticum. Here you go

    They use the outer bark an’ all. Everything is ‘bigger’ in Umreeka – I was maha-impressed in the beginning till I found everything kinda had diluted flavours – the giant bell peppers, jumbo egg plant, extra large this, super sized that… but the small Indian Shimla mirch is equal to two of those giant beautiful-looking green peppers! No wonder there is this movement to get back to heirloom varieties.

    BTW, the link was already there ma’am πŸ™‚

  8. And long, long, long ago, so long ago that well, I’m sure you were still in diapers back then Manisha, they were once known as cinnamomum zeylanicum and cinnamomum cassia: Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon respectively. That was very kind of you dearie, but you’ll have to forgive the shriveled-up old geezers like me who aren’t so up on things as you youngin’s are! [sighs] Oh to be young again… [takes a spoonful of pomegranate seeds sweetened with honey, made fragrant with cinnamon, decorated with roasted almonds…pauses…..takes another spoonful and flips it at Manisha]

    Pomegranate sweetened with honey?? Whatever for? Ah, to add flavour πŸ™‚ ! (ref previous response) But these are likely, not Kandhari pomegranates!

  9. You mean you expect me to read every word and click every link? That’s not why we’re here! Right, Pel? I’m here for the madness with the tea and the special sound effects like tchot.
    Pomegranate with honey? Pray why? Why? WHY? And next time, flip properly so that it lands in my mouth and not in the cat’s face. Meow!

    πŸ˜† Glad you enjoy the tongue twisters. Musical probably knows how to say them Kashmiri food names.

    And about Pel, at last there is something he hasn’t ‘already’ eaten: the real anar! Honey or sugar is total blasphemy – at the most we may sprinkle some chat masala! πŸ˜‰

  10. No…I do not have such a sophisticated πŸ˜‰ pomegranite palate! (Hiya Cynthia! πŸ™‚ ) Am I to understand that the Kandhari pomegranites are so sweet that they do not need sugar? They obviously aren’t the kind used for anardana… ours are bigger though I bet! πŸ˜‰ Big, and void of flavour… [sighs] that’s why in summer I totally reject the produce at the grocers and visit the “farmer’s markets” constantly. Heirloom everything… but honestly I grew up eating heirloom tomatoes, and grow them yearly myself as well, so I’m not in want there… just yearning for a nice mango to drip down my cheeks. 😦

    aur ek anar Kandhari

    What is this pomegranite business, Pel πŸ™‚ ?

    You’ve never had a Kandhari (from Kandahar, before you ask) pomegranate?! Ah, you only ‘import’ oil from Iran, I forgot. The Kandharis are more expensive, larger, sweeter, and the colour is the deeeepest ruby red! We now get Indian varieties developed from this. Yes, add it to the list with the mangoes πŸ™‚

    The pomegranate that end up as anardana is never eaten as fruit. It is a wild variety that is found on the arid mountain slopes of the Himalayas. The fruit is very small and tart.

    Here’s a tip on using anardana: dry roast anardana before storing – will stay for decades without going bad. Not that anything ever goes bad in the US; but in this country, it does and very quickly πŸ™‚ Add powdered anardana to okra prepared the Punj way – yum!

  11. I love kahwa, a very good friend is kashmiri and she makes one great pot of kahwa for our adda sessions. The flower is not saffron… I’m forgetting the name.. I have a couple of days, right?

    Tea, of any kind, is the perfect brew for adda sessions. Wine is good too πŸ™‚

    Yes, Mandira, you still have a couple of days – let’s see what you guess!

  12. Anita,
    That sure looks like a guava flower! Hope I am right.
    Remember from my childhood, huge sprawling trees filled with these beautiful blossoms and hundreds of bees buzzing around them. Never saw them again and yet when I see the picture, they come to mind. Hope my mind is not playing tricks on me…

    You are absolutely right, Sandhya! It is indeed the flower of the guava tree!

  13. is that raat ki rani?
    i am a die hard tea drinker too, kahva being our traditional end to a biryani meal!
    have u tried chamomile tea?

    Kahva is traditional in Kerala! Live and learn! Is it prepared the same way? Regular tea leaves?

    I have tried jasmine, peony, and other floral teas, but not chamomile. It believed to be calming, right?

  14. Kahva, wow! i need it πŸ™‚ really! i sometimes (don’t frown) also make my kahva with saunf!!
    am late in the kahva party πŸ˜‰ i need some snack too!! anardana is my favorite.and kandhari anars were the best, the current varieties are fine but kandhari anar and chaman grapes!! were the best πŸ˜€
    This was a great one, Anita πŸ™‚

    And the best raisins too come from Kabul!

  15. i am a tea addict-diff varieties. fond of kahva too. a variation of kahva is also there in kerala. it is called sulaimani. at least i think that it is.
    is that……hmmmmmmmm flower of mango tree πŸ™‚

    Reena, you know it’s not mango πŸ™‚

    Tell us more about sulaimani tea – this seems to be of Arab origins.

  16. Now, I didn’t say drowning in honey… more like graced… plus honey and cinnamon are supposed to be good for lots of stuff I can’t remember, but I do recall that pomegranAtes are good for getting rid of worms…carrots too! Not that I’ve ever had worms… still, it’s good to be prepared! The almonds are there just because… but don’t let me tempt you with blasphemy. [takes a spoonful and guides it toward Manisha’s trap and just as she says ‘ah’, he maneuvers it quickly back to his own mouth and cleans the spoon] I’d feel so bad [crunch crunch]if you were to overdose on something that remotely tipped the sweet-sour balance just a hair to one side [crunch] I suppose you don’t like baklava either then? [crunch…swallows] Pity! πŸ˜€

    Baklava – sweet-sour? What did you have your syrup in? πŸ˜€

  17. [returns wearing a denim jacket that quite obviously conceals something held in place with one hand] I don’t suppose either of you enjoy [removes a bottle of bright-red liquid] pomegranate syrup? No? Oh well… [grins and walks away]

    Too expensive! The fresh Kandharis have to suffice (not that they are cheap). Of course, I could make my own πŸ™‚ ?

  18. Pomegranate tea is also very good! Must be had chilled. Yum!

    And we are back on topic! Which is Tea, in case you were wondering. (You get off your laptop before you miss that flight!)

  19. Yes, Anita, you could surely make your own; no sense in buying into the highly-inflated belief that everything must be bought (like the current status here). However….you’ll have to add sugar to your precious anar Kandhari… πŸ˜€
    Has anyone tried to make those chilled fruit soups? It’s so hot here right now (80’s and humid!) my mind is reeling in that direction…

    I’ve made gazpacho, but no fruit soup. You makin’?

  20. Gazpacho…Oh, how I adore that soup; especially when tomatoes are in season. Your knowledge of different cuisines is continually impressing me Anita.
    Nope, I haven’t attempted the fruit soups yet, but I do have a good, simple recipe for “summer borcht” from Lithuania that I acquired years ago.
    I checked out your post of the jasmine flower ball- that’s a very special tea that I have never seen before. I do have a tiny bit of “dragon and phoenix” that I bought in a tea/coffee shop: they are little balls of green tea and jasmine flowers rolled together that unfurl in a cup…nothing like the blooms you photographed though!

    I have just superficial knowledge of other cuisines – you really know their depth! I don’t know the L of Lithuania. Or Laos.

  21. hi anita,

    wonderful website. i’m really happy someone has done this work and in fact, i’ve been thinking about blogging about kashmiri cooking myself.

    was wondering, are you kashmiri? i thought you had mentioned something about your non-kashmiri side of the family. just impressed with your work!

  22. hmm, never mind. i just went through the rest of your blog and figured it out. i’m so excited to find another kashmiri married to a maharashtrian who can still do everything like a real kashmiri! kudos! our community is crazy to think that marrying outside makes you non-kp automatically. i really think it is people like us who make it stronger! and i’m super excited that i’m going to learn more kashmiri cooking from you. shukriya!

    Hi Suman. A very warm welcome to you here at AMTP! So you are getting the taste too πŸ˜‰ The more the merrier. Hum sab Hindi hain – if only more of us would really believe in that…You live in Maharashtra or Delhi?

  23. hi anita,

    i’m actually in the usa. got married 2 months ago only so am new to cooking altogether!


  24. Those who like the taste of garlic should add a teaspoon of garlic paste along with ginger. It definitely improves the taste.

    Rupa, did you leave a comment on the wrong blog/post, by any chance? We are talking tea here…

  25. Hello, Great blog.
    Just an info.

    Kahwa, the mughal chai was originated from Peshawar. Its commonly served in household as part of the meal. Mostly after meal.

  26. Anyone fond of kahwas should try the Peshawari Kehwa (from pakistan) Pretty similar to the version you posted sans. cinnamon and with different tea leaves.

    Plus unlike the kashmiri chai you posted, I remember growing up with the ‘sheer chai’ or ‘namkeen chai’ in pakistan, which also originated in Kashmir I believe.

    btw – I stumbled on the blog searching for gulqand pictures πŸ™‚

  27. I’ve shared this lovely post on facebook as ‘a sublime subcontinental tea time’. I hope you don’t mind! nb I couldn’t dig out my guide to flowering trees and shrubs – but I do now know the flower. Beautiful.

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