February. Cold grey skies hung so low, threatening to erase the very memory of spring, of sunshine......Sound familiar? Wait! I know the perfect antidote! Come, sit by me, tuck your legs under, pull up that warm wooly throw, let me pour you a cup of comfort. Cup it in those near-frozen hands, let the warmth radiate through those porcelain walls....take a sip and tell me how your day went......
Isn't it amazing that no matter which part of the world you call home, there is this undeniable comfort a cup of tea brings.....it's like this universal language that says, "Welcome! this is where you can feel at home." Offering a cup of tea is synonymous with hospitality across all cultures and each home in each part of the world has its own special spin on the way it is brewed, the way it is served.....me, I'll take it any way it is offered, whether in a kullad (for the uninitiated: these are single-fired clay tea glasses that lend the most heavenly, earthy aroma to the tea they hold) or Moroccan tea glass or in a porcelain cup with gilded handles........
With that in mind, I'd like to introduce to you a new series that I've been working on, where we will be dropping in on friends for a cup of tea and some gupshup (chit-chat). But before we do that, I'd like to invite you in, to our home, for a cup of tea....
We love to entertain, my husband and I; we're not huge fans of crowds and our parties are almost always a rather intimate affair. Our fail-proof formula: one family or two at a time, loads of good homemade food, great conversation (that never seems to want to stop!), the sound of children playing, and of course, tea. Not just any tea, but special, brewed with magic, tea. Tea that will linger on in the memories of the imbiber (made that word up!), ensure that the next invitation to visit is accepted in a snap. :) Tea that has fully grown adults reaching down into the bottom of their now-empty cups, greedily scooping up the nutty morsels with their bare fingers (not making this up. it happens. each. and. every. time.) And that look of satisfaction in the end? that's the best hostess gift ever, knowing that the care and effort put into the evening was appreciated, savored. This magic tea originates in the cold mountain state of kashmir in India. It is called kahwa/kehva and is a kind of green tea, brewed with fragrant spices and a sprinkling of crushed or slivered nuts.
I first came across kahwa back in the early 90s and, smitten with the flavors, I hounded the chef for the recipe.....he gave me a small packet of the tea leaves and allowed me to watch while he prepared the next batch, in a huge silver samovar with hot coals in its belly. I was mesmerized and vowed to master the art of brewing it --thankfully, it was a deceptively simple technique, one that I've adapted to my small saucepan, on my tiny, not-so-glamorous stove burner. It makes for the perfect nightcap--mildly sweetened and fragrant with spices, it is the perfect way to end an evening with friends. You only need a few tea leaves (these are much larger than other green tea I've come across and 7-8 tea leaves easily fill half a teaspoon.) You can (could?) get these at the Kashmir emporium in Delhi and I think also at Dilli haat. If you know of any other sources, please do share in the comments field. The rest of the spices are ones that are easy to procure, most already available in our pantries....
(Please click on the images in order to read the text--I didn't really think through the font size while creating the image above. Lesson learned. :) )
To brew this cup of comfort, you need:
- ¼ tsp Kashmiri green tea.
- 3 green cardamoms.
- ¼ inch cinnamon stick.
- 2 cloves.
- A generous pinch saffron.
- 2 ½ cups water.
- ½ tsp slivered (or crushed) nuts like almonds or walnuts.
- A pinch of powdered ginger (soonth).
- Two tsp sugar (optional).
Brewing that perfect cup of kahwa is easy……place all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat and allow the tea to simmer, with a lid on, for at least fifteen minutes. Or till your entire kitchen is filled with the fragrance of saffron and cinnamon and cardamom. Pour into teacups (traditionally, they use shallow, wide cups, much like the green tea cups from China or Japan.) Sprinkle an extra pinch of crushed nuts on top. Serve accompanied with bowls of dried fruits and nuts. Sit back and enjoy!
Want to know more? Suggested Reading:
The Kahwa facebook page.
Kahva Recipe from an authentic Kashmiri food blogger.