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Is Kashmiri tea pink?

Is Kashmiri tea pink?

Kashmiri tea, also known as Kahwa, is a traditional pink-hued tea that originates from the Kashmir region in India. It has become synonymous with the Kashmiri culture and hospitality. But is Kashmiri tea really pink in color? Let’s explore the origins, ingredients, and preparation of this aromatic tea to understand what lends it the distinctive pinkish hue.

The Origin of Kashmiri Tea

Kashmir is a region in the northernmost part of India, known for its picturesque valleys, lakes, houseboats, and Mughal gardens. It shares borders with Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and China.

The origins of Kashmiri tea can be traced back to the 15th century during the reign of Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin. He ruled Kashmir from 1420 to 1470 AD and was known for his tolerance towards Hindus. It is believed that he encouraged his Hindu subjects to develop and drink this medicinal concoction made with almonds, cardamom, and saffron.

Over the centuries, Kashmiri tea became an integral part of Kashmiri culture. The climatic conditions in the valley, with its extreme winters, favored drinking warm teas. Locals developed innovative ways of using indigenous ingredients like saffron, almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, and kewda flowers to create a tea that was both healthy and soothing.

Ingredients Used in Kashmiri Tea

Traditional Kashmiri tea consists of black or green tea leaves flavored with various spices, nuts, and flowers. Each family has its own proportion and combination of ingredients that lend a unique taste and aroma. However, there are some essential ingredients that are commonly used across Kashmir to prepare a traditional pink Kashmiri tea:

  • Green tea leaves or black tea leaves: Kashmiri tea is made with either green tea or black tea leaves. Green tea was traditionally used but now black tea is more common.
  • Saffron strands: Saffron is extensively cultivated in Kashmir and imparts a rich color and flavor. It is the prime ingredient responsible for the pink hue.
  • Almonds: Crushed almonds add a nutty flavor and creamy texture.
  • Cardamom pods: Cardamom is native to India and adds a sweet aroma.
  • Cinnamon sticks: Cinnamon adds warmth to the tea.
  • Cloves: Cloves add a subtly spicy flavor.
  • Dried rose petals: Rose petals add a floral fragrance and colors.
  • Fennel seeds: Fennel gives a hint of sweetness and aroma.

Other ingredients like ginger root, star anise, bay leaves, kewda flowers, and honey are also sometimes added. The variety of ingredients balances the flavors and aromas but it is saffron that primarily contributes to the light pink color.

How is Kashmiri Tea Prepared?

Kashmiri tea is prepared through a simple process of brewing and infusing the tea leaves and spices:

  1. Take a small saucepan and add 3 cups of water for one serving.
  2. Add 1 tbsp black tea leaves or green tea leaves. Let it come to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat.
  3. Add spices like crushed green cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, fennel seeds, dried rose petals and let them simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add a few strands of saffron and switch off the heat. Allow the saffron to infuse and cool slightly.
  5. Add crushed almonds, sugar or honey as per taste and mix well.
  6. Strain the tea into cups and garnish with more almonds and saffron strands. The Kashmiri tea is ready to serve.

Kashmiris sometimes boil the tea leaves and spices directly in a samovar, a traditional copper kettle. The pinkish infusion is then poured into cups from the samovar spout. Using a samovar is convenient for serving many guests and keeps the tea piping hot.

Why Does Saffron Make the Tea Pink?

The distinct pink hue of Kashmiri tea comes mainly from the saffron added during brewing. Saffron is the dried stigma of the Crocus sativus flower, which is indigenous to Kashmir. It contains a carotenoid pigment called crocin that gives saffron its characteristic golden-yellow color.

When saffron is infused in hot water, the crocin pigments are released and dissolve to give a rich golden-yellow color. In the case of Kashmiri tea, the yellow mixes with the brownish black tea to give a light pink or orange-pink hue.

The longer saffron is infused, the deeper the color will be. Adding more strands of saffron will also intensify the pinkness. Fresh, high-grade saffron from Kashmir yields the best color. Saffron grown elsewhere or adulterated saffron may not give an authentic pink hue.

Other Factors that Contribute to Pink Color

Though saffron plays the major role in giving Kashmiri tea its prized pink color, the other ingredients used also subtly contribute to the overall hue:

  • Almonds – The white from crushed almonds helps lighten the tea to a softer pink.
  • Green tea – Green tea has a paler infusion than black tea, allowing the saffron color to show up more vividly.
  • Rose petals – Dried rose buds add a mild pinkish tint.
  • Cardamom – Cardamom has a pale brown color that adds an earthy tone.
  • Cinnamon – Cinnamon gives a light brownish infusion.

Additionally, the percentage of water is important. Using more water to dilute the tea leaves gives a lighter pink color. The pink also keeps changing hue as the tea cools, becoming more subtle and mellow.

Health Benefits of Kashmiri Tea Ingredients

Apart from lending color and flavour, the various ingredients used in Kashmiri tea also provide health benefits:

Ingredient Benefits
Saffron Saffron contains antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation, improve mood, and prevent certain cancers.
Almonds Almonds are packed with healthy fats, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E.
Cardamom Cardamom aids digestion, helps detoxify the body, and prevents bad breath.
Cinnamon Cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels, reduce heart disease risk, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Cloves Cloves are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and help maintain oral health.
Rose Petals Rose petals contain antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and soothe sore throats.

Green and black tea also contain antioxidants that can boost heart health. Together, the medicinal ingredients make Kashmiri tea a healthy and nourishing beverage.

Cultural Importance of Pink Kashmiri Tea

Over the centuries, the signature pink Kashmiri tea has become an integral part of Kashmiri culture and hospitality:

  • It is served to guests to provide warmth and honor them with traditional Kashmiri hospitality.
  • During weddings, Kahwa is prepared in large samovars and served to all guests.
  • Families and friends bond over cups of Kahwa, dipping breads like Girda in the tea.
  • Special kahwa blends are made during festivals like Eid.
  • Locals begin their day with a hot cup of nourishing pink Kahwa.
  • It is cherished for providing warmth and energy during Kashmir’s harsh, freezing winters.

For Kashmiris, the aroma, taste and color of this tea are all intertwined with their culture and cherished memories. The light pink infusion is a reminder of their homeland’s unique traditions.

Kashmiri Pink Tea Around the World

Owing to migration and cultural exchange, Kashmiri tea is gaining popularity around the world:

  • In the UK, Kahwa chai is served at restaurants and available at supermarkets.
  • Packaged Kahwa mixes are exported from India to Europe, the USA, the Middle East.
  • Cafes in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York are putting it on the menu.
  • Kashmiri restaurants familiarize locals with Kahwa in cities like Manila, Malaysia, and UAE.
  • Tourists who visit Kashmir bring back the taste and memories of Kahwa.

The global tea-drinking community is slowly waking up to the pleasures of Kahwa. Its nourishing ingredients and visually-striking pink color make it stand out from regular tea. The aroma of cardamom and saffron make it a soothing and luxurious treat for the senses.

Does All Kashmiri Tea Have a Pinkish Hue?

Given its iconic status, one would assume that all cups of Kashmiri tea are a signature pink. However, this is not necessarily true.

There are some scenarios in which Kashmiri tea does not take on a pink hue:

  1. Poor quality saffron – Saffron is the hero ingredient when it comes to the color. Low grade saffron or artificial saffron substitutes will not bleed enough color.
  2. Less saffron – Skimping on the amount of saffron strands makes the color very mild.
  3. Black cardamom – Some recipes use black cardamom instead of green. The darker infusion disguises the pink.
  4. Excess water – A higher water ratio dilutes the pigments from saffron and other spices, preventing the pink from shining through.
  5. Overbrewing – Steeping the tea too long makes it dark and masks the pink tint.

So while traditionally prepared Kashmiri tea is light pink, variations in ingredients and brewing can also yield a golden, brown, or even greenish infusion. The color can range from a dark pink to a subtle peach depending on the recipe.

How to Enhance the Pink Color

Here are some tips to help enhance the prized pink color of your Kashmiri tea:

  • Use good quality saffron strands – pricey but worth it!
  • Soak the saffron longer before brewing.
  • Add more saffron strands, up to 1/4 tsp for one cup.
  • Use green tea leaves instead of black tea.
  • Include dried rose petals and almonds.
  • Do not over boil the tea.
  • Avoid using black cardamom.
  • Add crushed pistachios for extra color.
  • Refrain from adding milk which dulls the pink tone.

With attention to ingredients and method, you can brew up the perfect pink cup of Kashmiri tea.


Kashmiri tea derives its signature light pink color mainly from saffron, the golden spice which Kashmir is renowned for. When crushed saffron strands are infused in the hot tea, their carotenoid pigments are released to give a pink-orange infusion. Other ingredients like almonds, rose petals and green tea also complement the pink tone.

This aromatic pink tea is now internationally recognized as part of Kashmir’s cultural identity. However, the color can vary based on the quality of ingredients and brewing technique. Using premium saffron strands, calibrating quantities, and avoiding overbrewing are key to enhancing the beloved blush color that makes Kashmiri tea so distinctive.