The magic of tea

The word tea reminds me of  rich aromas, chilly winter evenings of Islamabad and quality time spent with  family. Heating some water and adding tea leaves every morning and evening is a daily ritual. Such common is tea drinking, that it now involves a lot more than just tea. According to a statistic, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. With tea usually come biscuits, samosas and other snacks. The habit is so pervasive in Pakistan and amongst Pakistani diaspora in other parts of the world that an outsider cannot help noticing it. I was told by a friend about how delicious our tea was. I am sure that tea made in other parts of the world is equally worth enjoying.

Since there isn’t much tea grown in Pakistan, most of it is imported. Pakistanis are fond of the Kenyan blend of tea. Tea can be of so many different types, blends and aromas. I will try to mention the varieties I can remember and have experienced.

Chai – Almost a staple, chai (چاۓ) or tea with milk is widely consumed by millions around the world, especially in the sub-continent. Often cut tea leaves (which are already processed) are added directly into whole milk or are boiled with water first and then milk is added to it. Sometimes cardamom can also be added to give more flavor and aroma.

Qehwa قہوہ  – Often confused with chai, qehwa/kahwa is common especially in north and western parts of Pakistan. Its use is quite prevalent after heavy meals. After dinner, qehwa is commonly served and enjoyed as hot drink. Almost similar to it is the green tea which has various health benefits. Besides having antioxidants, tea may bolster the immune defenses.

Kashmiri chai (کشمیری چاۓ ) – One of the best teas I have ever had is undoubtedly the Kashmiri chai (or Gulabi chai). As is evident from its name it originates from Kashmir. It is a rich blend of  herbs and milk. Pink in color and a little salty, Kashmiri chai is the one I miss the most. Garnished with crushed almonds and pistachios, this tea is hard to resist. Due to its special nature, Kashmiri tea is also commonly served in Pakistani weddings. My Kashmiri friend (whose grandparents had migrated from Srinagar) told me that the best Kashmiri chai is made using a Samovar, a metal container used for heating the water for the tea. Googling may help you find nice recipes for preparing Kashmiri tea, but the real deal is good quality tea leaves and the time spent in its simple preparation.

Tea is more than a drink. In fact, its magic brings friends and families together. As the saying goes, lets meet over a cup of tea. Nothing like a hot cup of tea any day of the week!

Published in: on March 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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