If you live in the Northern Hemisphere there’s no question about it, “Baby it’s cold outside!” So whether you’re suffering through the after effects of a crazy snow storm or wondering if you should make the effort to start the fireplace, like me, you’re looking for warmth. Growing up in India my mom used herbs and spices in our daily food to help us be healthy all winter long. The aroma of certain spices still takes me back to my childhood, and now that I understand the health benefits of spices I use them liberally in the meals I cook for my family.
Like the smell of cinnamon, it takes me back to early morning chai time with my parents in India. This woody bark is chock full of antioxidants and with it’s anti-bacterial properties is known for relieving cold, cough and flu. Cardamom is my other favourite warming winter spice. Its aroma takes me back to evenings spent drinking elaichi milk. Known for relieving digestive disorders, this humble and odd looking pod is one of the most valued spices in the world. So when I remembered this traditional Indian tea recipe that comes with a combination of these healthy winter spices and is easy enough to make at home in Canada, I knew I had to share it with you.
Traditional Kahwa – Indian Tea Recipe
20 years ago, my family lived in the Himalayan city of Srinagar, Kashmir in northern India. It’s in this town that my mom tasted Kahwa for the first time. Srinagar, with it’s beautiful Chinar trees (that look and glow like Maple trees) is nestled in a state that’s rightfully called the “Crown of India” and is known for its beautiful people and landscape. In the midst of these rugged mountains, the local people have found creative ways to keep warm – the Kangri is one example. A pot filled with hot embers that is carried around under overcoats, it’s like an amazing hot water bottle that stays warm all day long and can burn your skin off…..but doesn’t. Creative, huh? The other more delicious way is Kahwa – a spicy tea that is kept warm on the stove letting the flavours steep for hours. There are many versions of this Indian tea recipe out there but my mom learnt this one during her stay in Srinagar that she’s since tweaked and made her own. As have I.
Indian Kahwa Recipe
Ingredients enough to make two cups
2 1/2 cups of water
A cardamom pod for each cup, and a few extra for the pot
A piece of cinnamon per cup
1/2 tsp of your favourite green tea (unflavoured)
A few strands of saffron
2-3 almonds chopped finely (optional)
1/2 tsp of sugar per cup (optional)
- Boil a pot of water.
- Coarsely crush the cardamom and cinnamon to let the flavours activate and toss them in the water along with the saffron.
- Once it is at a rolling boil, simmer the tea for 10 minutes to infuse the flavours.
- Add the green tea and simmer a little longer. This is a personal preference I like the darker colour and the deeper flavour that comes with the tea. Don’t boil after adding it though, the mixture will turn bitter.
- Add almond slivers and sugar into the cup, and pour the tea on top. My mother and I were not in agreement over the sugar. Traditionally this drink is had with at least a teaspoon of sugar (sometimes more to stay warm) and I have to agree, it does taste yummy but to my palate sugar-free is great too.
- Breathe in the aroma as you sip.
Kahwa is traditionally steeped for hours and sipped while sitting on a mountainside. I can’t bring the Himalayas any closer but I know this spicy tea takes me to an easier more delicious time. One sip at a time.