Are you suffering from the after-effects of a crazy snowstorm? Or wondering if you should make the effort to light up the fireplace? Instead of all that work, I have an easier solution for those cold evenings. A traditional Indian spiced tea. This Kashmiri kahwa recipe is made using saffron, cardamom and cinnamon – all ingredients that warm you up from the inside.
As a child in India, I loved how my mom used herbs and spices in our food to help us stay healthy through the winter. The aroma of certain spices still takes me back to my childhood. Now that I better understand the health benefits of spices too, I use them liberally in the meals I cook for my family.
Cinnamon is one of those spices that reminds me of early morning chai time with my parents in India. This woody bark is full of antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties. It is well known for relieving cold, cough and flu. Cardamom is another warming winter spice. The aroma of this odd-looking pod takes me back to evenings spent drinking elaichi milk. Known in traditional Indian wisdom for soothing digestive troubles, cardamom is one of the most valued spices in the world. It’s no wonder that this traditional kahwa recipe has a combination of these warming winter spices, along with another glamorous favourite, saffron.
A spiced Indian Tea from the valleys of the Himalayas
For a few years during my childhood, my family lived in the Himalayan city of Srinagar, Kashmir in northern India. This city with its beautiful Chinar trees (that look and glow like Maple trees) is nestled in a state that’s rightfully called the “Crown of India.” It is famous for its beautiful people, gorgeous landscape and intricate handicrafts. In the midst of these rugged mountains, the local people have found creative ways to keep warm. The Kangri is one such example. This is a pot filled with hot embers that is carried around under woolen overcoats, much like an amazing hot water bottle that stays warm all day long. Creative, huh?
The other, more delicious way to stay warm is through a spicy tea called Kahwa. There are many versions of this recipe out there, but my mom learned this one during her stay in Srinagar. She has since tweaked it and made it her own. As have I.
Traditional 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 tsp of your favourite green tea (unflavoured)
A couple of strands of saffron
2-3 almonds chopped finely (optional)
1/2 tsp of sugar per cup (optional)
Honey if preferred
- 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. Traditionally this brew is also made without green tea but I like the flavour and the hit of caffeine. Don’t boil after adding the tea 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 people drink this 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.