Autumn is finally here and it the perfect weather to snuggle with a hot cup of tea. Tea lovers are known to have their own favourites. Some like it lightly brewed, some prefer the kadak milky chai and some enjoy the spicy kick of masala chai . Tea is one of the most loved beverages in India and even around the world not without reason. A soothing brew can easily get you through a gloomy day. You may have never thought about it but there are many ways to experiment with a cup of tea. Take the Noon Chai from Kashmir, for instance. It is nothing like your regular chai yet as lovable.This unusually pink-coloured tea is a traditional local beverage enjoyed in Kashmir. Among the other authentic Kashmiri delights, this pretty pink tea with sea salt and warm nuts really stands out. It has a buttery texture and spicy-nutty flavour that leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. The Noon Shai or Sheer Chai or Gulabi Chai is made with a special type of tea grown in Kashmir.
The tea leaves are long and resemble those of the oolong tea. Some people may even use regular green tea leaves to make Noon Chai. Salt is always added to tea, particularly sea salt instead of sugar. The word ‘Noon’ means salt in Kashmiri language. Along with salt, some nuts like almonds and pistachios are thrown in that are known to be warm in nature. Nuts are quite a fixture on the Kashmiri menu. They are often used to make creamy gravies and add crunch to pulaos. Another type of traditional Kashmiri tea, Kahwa is also made with a rich blend of fragrant spices and warm nuts. These ingredients help in keeping the body warm especially in cold climates like that of Kashmir.
The trick lies in getting the blush pink colour. So, how does the tea turn pink? If you think it is saffron, you’re totally wrong. The colour comes from adding a pinch of baking soda which is known to react with the tea and turn it crimson red. Baking soda is added while brewing the tea which turns it into a red liquid and it finally transforms into the beautiful pink tea on adding milk. The tannins in tea turn yellowish in an acidic environment (when lemon juice is added) and reddish-brown in an alkaline environment (when baking soda is added).People drink the Noon Chai at least two-three times a day to keep themselves warm and it is often enjoyed along with a homemade Kashmiri bread known as Choat or Lavaas which makes for a unique regional breakfast.
The tea is traditionally prepared with the help of a special vessel called samovar. Samovar is a heated metal container used to heat water. It has a ring-shared attachment around the chimney the teapot. Some of the antique samovars from Kashmir are beautiful pieces of artwork. But you can make the Noon Chai at home too without a samovar. Brewing the perfect cup of Noon Chai requires some amount of skill, the right technique and a whole lot of patience and what you’ll get is a rich and soothing cup of tea. Here’s an easy recipe to follow shared by Chef Prateek Sandhu.Ingredients:4 cups water
1 tsp sheer chai
1 1/2 cups milk
Pinch of phull or baking soda.
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp cream or malai (if desired)
Crushed 4 almond and 2 cardamom (optional)Method:1. Put 1/2 cup of water, tea and baking soda in a saucepan.
2. Concentrate the tea by boiling on burner without cover until color of tea turns reddish brown.
3. Add one more cup of water and boil again for 5 minutes.
4. Add 2 cups of water again and boil for about 2 minutes.
5. Add salt to taste.
6. Add milk, color of tea will turn pink.
7. Boil the tea again for 1 minute uncovered.
8. Serve the tea hot and garnish with some cream/malai
9. Add crushed almond and cardamom if desired.Enjoy hot!