Kashmiri chai recipe
Creamy, luxurious and steeped in history
Also known as noon chai, Kashmiri pink chai (tea) has been made in Kashmir for hundreds of years. The drink hails from the Kashmir Valley, located in the very North of Pakistan and India.
Noon translates to salt, as the tea is traditionally served with salt and naan bread. Kashmir is one of the few places in Pakistan and India to have freezing cold winters and heavy snowfall. So this chai is served to provide much needed warmth and sustenance to the Kashmiri people.
Even though my family are not from Kashmir, pink chai is legendary across India. My aunty was the first person to brew this special chai for me and I have never forgotten it. It is absolutely delicious. Like normal chai on steroids.
Kashmiri chai is served on special occasions outside of Kashmir, by those in the know! It takes a little longer than your standard tea to brew this chai and to get the gorgeous pinky hue, but it is so worth it for when you want to impress. I would set aside around 30 minutes to make this Kashmiri chai recipe.
Star Ingredients for this Kashmiri chai recipe
Kashmiri green tea leaves – It’s important to use the right tea leaves for this Kashmiri chai recipe, but they are easy to find online. It’s important not to just buy the tea powder but the actual leaves themselves. Also note that if you are making this for a large group of people, many of these Kashmiri green tea leaf blends have added spices and sometimes almonds and pistachios too. I think this is unnecessary, and I would always use a brand without nuts for obvious reasons. The nuts may not bother you, but I just wanted to caveat this for any fellow allergy households. If you struggle to get hold of ‘Kashmiri’ green tea leaves, just buy regular green tea leaves and add more of the spices if you need to.
Bicarbonate of Soda or Baking Soda – The bicarbonate in soda reacts with the chlorophyll in the tea leaves, helping to give it its pink hue. Baking powder is not the same thing and will not give the same result (as I learned during recipe testing!)
Spices – Chai is deliciously warming thanks to the spices used in the brewing process. Essential spices for any chai include cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Nothing should be powdered, instead it’s all thrown in to the pan whole and then strained out at the end.
Salt – Traditionally! But I do not like salt in my tea, and so for me, I like to sweeten the chai with a teaspoon of sugar per cup. I don’t add sugar when making a normal black tea, but I think because chai is brewed for longer and is lightly spiced, a little sugar is delightful.
Why isn’t my pink chai, pink?
It’s frustrating when your pink chai doesn’t turn pink pink. Don’t worry, its probably down to one of the following reasons which are easy to fix:
Firstly, make sure you are using bicarbonate of soda and not baking powder. Baking powder doesn’t turn the chai pink, and it will stay a dark green colour. If you are already using bicarb, try using a pinch more. But not too much! It will change the taste of the chai.
Secondly, boil the tea leaves until the quantity of water has reduced by at least half and the hue has turned to a deep browny red. This should take around 15 minutes for the quantities I provide in this recipe.
It’s important to use ice cold water to shock the tea leaves after boiling the water away to half its original content. Shocking the tea leaves with ice cold water helps to preserve the pinky hue. I am no chemist, and I cannot provide a scientific explanation for this, but I do know its an important step!
Finally, it’s important to aerate the chai for at least five minutes after adding the ice cold water. Aerating the tea helps the tannins to further develop as it is exposed to oxygen. I like to ladle the tea from a height for at least five minutes, until dark red bubbles start to appear on the surface of the chai. You will end up with splashes all over your stove, but embrace the temporary chaos!
Storing Kashmiri pink chai
You can keep the concentrated base of the pink chai, known as the kahwa, bottled for up to a week in the fridge.
You would then just add the amount you need to a pan, add the milk, bring to a boil and serve as usual.