Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sheer joy of Sheer Chai or Noon Chai

 
Sheer Chai and Kulch'e. Noon Chai, salt tea for afternoons. Pandits are more likely to call it Sheer Chai.
 
Sheer Chai gets its pinkish hue from baking soda.

When I was a kid, I used to love Kehwa. I would look forward to it any given morning and Sheer Chai, it was that strange looking tea that old women drank, with much delight, in late afternoons. Sitting in group, chatting, at ease holding steaming brass khos with the edge of their sari, they would sip Sheer Chai after their long chores and toils in kitchen were over. They ask me. No, this not for me, why don't you make Kehwa, now that I will have anydayanytime. That was then. Now, I keep looking forward to a cup of salty Sheer Chai, with malai. They hold stainless steel cup now, but still like that. Now too, it's a special brew for rare little get-togethers or it's just something you may say yes to one lazy one afternoon and it will come to you. I like to think that I have developed a taste for it. At first they, the makers, the women, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, were surprised, now its okay. But still, I don't think Sheer Chai is okay for mornings. Not in the morning. Sweet Kehwa is still fine for mornings.

6 comments:

  1. Mothers used to sip it every evening..specially at a Neighbourhood gathering..But generally forbade small kids from it.."Not good for kids"...Sheer Chai some times irritated me..as it was not seived.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's true. I didn't like it then but I kind of like it now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is interesting how Pandits call the two Kashmiri teas Sheer Chai and Mogal Chai, both names having Muslim roots. Sheer means milk, so that is apparently how the one with milk is called Sheer Chai. No idea how the other one is called Mugal
    chai -- may be the Mughals brought it to Kashmir? The Muslims called them Noon-chai (the salted tea) and Kahwa respectively.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Kaul,
    Mughals are indeed widely credited for introducing this tea (along with the Bakers, Kandurs) to Kashmir. I read it was the Uzbek Mughal rulers of Kashmir. Chinese are believed to the first Tea drinkers of the world. And from there the practice spread around in the world. It isn't surprising that Kashmiri tea resembles Chinese tea in some ways.
    Also, here's something interesting I found in
    'A Dictionary Of Kashmiri Proverbs and Sayings'
    (1885) by J. H. Knowles, two ancient recipes for making Kashmiri tea:

    "Two kinds of tea, and two ways of preparing it, are met with in the valley. There is the Surati Chai, something like our English tea, which is imported from the Panjab and Ladak ; and the Sabz Chai, the celebrated brick tea, which reaches Kashmir via Ladak. The first way of preparation is called the Mughal method, Mugul Chai. Here is the receipt:- For every tola or rupee's weight of tea in the pot put five cups of cold water, boil for half-an-hour, then add more cold water together with sugar and condiments, and allow to boil for another half-an-hour. Then add milk,stir well, and serve round hot to the guests ad libitum . The second modus preparandi is called Shiri chai, of which this is the recipe:- Place the required quantity in the tea-pot together with a little soda and cold water and boil for half-an-hour. Then add milk, salt, and butter, and allow to boil for another half -an-hour, when it is ready for drinking. The salt used in the infusion of tea is called phul. It is found in the Nubra valley in Ladak, and contains the carbonate and sulphate of soda, and a little of the chloride of sodium."

    Isn't it surprising that this old recipe of Mughal chai has milk in it. Kashmiris love their Kehwa without milk. I guess milk would make it more like Dod Chai, Kashmiri Milk tea.

    Also, Surati Chai was probably the tea leave that reached Kashmir via Surat. Interestingly, in contrast, I have read that at one time in Kashmir, Kahwa tea was known Bombay Chai because its leaves came from Bombay port.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have aways loved Sheer chai. Does anyone knows how to order it online. I am in New Jersey and want to drink Noon chai so much.....

    ReplyDelete
  6. You can make it using normal Green tea or "gunpowder green tea". For the procedure to make sheer chai, you can use the ancient method mentioned by J. H. Knowles. It is still made the same way:

    Place the required quantity in the tea-pot together with a little soda and cold water and boil for half-an-hour.
    Then add milk, salt, and butter(or you may skip it and add malai on top after it is finished), and allow to boil for another half -an-hour, and its done.

    ReplyDelete

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