The two alliterated words – Kashmir and Kahwa – have a connection that goes beyond politics, religion, bloodshed and, unrest. A concoction/blend of saffron and boiling water with a mixture of a different variety of spices like saffron, it is a go-to beverage for many Kashmiris. Despite its popularity with people consuming it for its various health benefits, many are still unaware of its origin and how it came to be such an important part of Kashmiri culture and its history.
ORIGIN OF KASHMIRI KAHWA:
The term “Kahwa” or “Qahwa” is originally an Arabic word meaning “coffee” although there is nothing bitter about Kahwa and is a sweetened tea. According to some historians, the origin of Qahwa and its special association with the Paradise Kashmir goes back to the 1st and 2nd century A.D in the Yarkand valley during the Kushan Empire. However, some argue that Spice Route was used to import some “Special Teas” from China through Tibet. It is consumed in many places besides Kashmir like Bangladesh, Afghanistan and, other regions in Central Asia. Kashmiri Hindus refer to Kahwa as a drink popularized and brought to Kashmir by Mughals.
KAHWA’S PLACE IN KASHMIRIS’ DIET:
Kashmiri mothers treat Kashmiri Kahwa like a magic potion that can treat almost anything wrong with their kids. One of these potions is “Shangri Kahwa” (it is prepared from liquorice roots) and is used to treat sore throat, cough and, cold, especially during the harsh winters in Kashmir. It gives instant relief and warmth throughout the body and makes a sick person feel better. It is even served at Kashmiri weddings. No occasion is complete without a cup of this otherworldly tea.
KASHMIRIS’ PECULIAR UTENSILS FOR SERVING KAHWA:
“Samovar”, a kettle made of copper native to Kashmir, is used to prepare Kahwa. It is a vessel with a container to place fire coals in the middle and the surrounding area is where the tea is brewed. There are special cups called Kahwa cups that are made for this purpose. Traditional cups were made from clay but nowadays are made of paper mache, porcelain and, copper.
Kahwa has been and always will be an integral part of the tradition and culture of Kashmir. It has stayed with Kashmiris through thick and thin, through joy and sorrow, through worst and the best, through highs and the lows and, through birth and death.