There is a harmony in Kashmir that inspires awe. Kashmir overwhelms everyone not only by its captivating beauty but also by its rich cultural diversity, be it popular cuisines, astounding artworks (like, papier-mâché, crafts, embroidery), bewildering outfits (including tilla pheran, pashmina shawl, kani shawl), khatamband (the art of intricately carved ceilings), one of the best dry fruits and what not.
Through this article, we want to throw some light on one of the most popular beverages consumed in the valley, that is “kahwa”. Kahwa is an exotic mix of green tea leaves, cinnamon, cardamom and almonds. What makes Kashmiri kahwa extraordinary is the addition of a highly-priced spice, saffron (kong). This special kahwa is known as Kongé Kahwe. The strands of saffron are used to enhance the colour and aroma of this beverage. While its exact origins are unclear, the tea leaves used to make kahwa are said to have come to Kashmir through the Spice Route, which Kashmir was a central point of. Many believe that the tea leaves were brought from the Yarkand valley in Xinjiang (present-day China) during the Kushan empire during the first and second century AD. The word kahwa in Kashmiri means “sweetened tea”, though the word also seems to be related to the turkish word for coffee (kahveh). Kahwa is usually served with sheermal, kulcha or baqirkhaani. Kahwa is an essential part of Kashmiri culture. No festival, occasion or gathering is complete without a cup of kahwa brewed in a samovar (traditional copper flask) and often served in tiny, shallow cups called finjaan. It is a custom to serve the bride and the bridegroom with this delicacy on the wedding day. Over the years, Kashmiris have been introduced to many different beverages due to various cultural and social changes but kahwa holds the same pristine place in Kashmiri culture
(Photo Courtesy: Anshika Varma for Nat Geo)