Kahwah: A Traditional Green Tea Preparation

Kahwah is a traditional green tea preparation that is widely consumed in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and some regions of Central Asia. It is made by boiling green tea leaves with local saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, and occasionally Kashmiri roses. Some varieties are made as a herbal infusion only, without the green tea leaves.

Preparation Method

Kashmiri kahwah is traditionally prepared in a copper kettle known as a samovar. However, it can also be made in normal pots and kettles. It is generally served with sugar or honey and crushed nuts, usually almonds or walnuts. Sometimes milk is added to the kahwah, but this is generally given to the elderly or the sick.

Peshawari Qehwa is another variety of kahwah found in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and it is traditionally made with Jasmine tea and green cardamom. It is famously served at chaikhanas or tea houses of Qissa Khwani bazar.

History and Origin

While its exact origins are unclear, kahwa tea leaves are said to have come to Kashmir through the Spice Route, which Kashmir was a central point of. Many believe that it originated during the Kushan empire in the first and second century AD. The word Kahwah in Kashmiri means “sweetened tea,” though it is also related to the Turkish word for coffee (kahve) which might be derived from the Arabic word “qahwah.”

Traditionally, Kashmiris have always referred to kahwa as Mogul chai, as the tea was introduced to the valley by the Mughal emperors. Historically, kahwah has been popular as a drink throughout Kashmir, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran, and the Middle East. Even today, it remains a popular drink of choice in these regions.

Modern Usage and Popularity

Today, kahwah is usually served to guests or as part of a celebration dinner, and saffron is added to the kahwah for special visitors in Kashmir. It is often served in tiny, shallow cups. Kahwa is also commonly served after Wazwan and elaborate family dinners. The green tea leaves are brought in from the neighboring Kangra region, which has historically exported green tea to Kashmir, Afghanistan, and other parts of Central Asia.

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