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The tea is made by boiling green tea leaves with saffron strands grown in Kashmir, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods, and occasionally Kashmiri roses to add a great aroma. Generally, it is served with sugar or honey and crushed nuts, usually almonds or walnuts. Some varieties are made as an herbal infusion only, without the green tea leaves.
Traditionally, kahwah is prepared in a copper kettle known as a samavaar. A samavaar which originates from former USSR areas consists of a "fire-container" running as a central cavity, in which live coals are placed keeping the tea perpetually hot. Around the fire-container there is a space for water to boil and the tealeaves and other ingredients are mixed with the water. Kahwah may also be made in normal pans and vessels, as modern day urban living may not always permit the use of elaborate samovars.
Sometimes milk is added to the kahwah, but this is generally given to the elderly or the sick.
While its exact origins are unclear, Kahwa (or the Kashmiri Kahwah) tea leaves are said to have come to Kashmir through the Spice Route, which Kashmir was a central point of. Many believe that it originated in the Yarkand valley in Xinjiang (present-day China) during the Kushan empire in the first and second century AD. The word Kahwah in Kashmiri means "sweetened tea", though the word also seems to be related to the Turkish word for coffee (kahveh) which in turn might be derived from the Arabic word "qahwah."
Traditionally Kashmiri Hindus have always referred to kehwa as Mogul chai. Meaning this tea was introduced in the valley back then by the Mughal emperors. Historically, the Kahwah as a drink has been popular throughout Kashmir, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran and the Middle East. Even today, it remains a popular drink of choice in these regions.
Modern usage and popularity
Today, this historically popular drink is usually served to guests or as part of a celebration dinner, and saffron (kong) is added to the kahwah for special visitors in Kashmir. It is often served in tiny, shallow cups. Kehwa in Kashmir is also commonly served after Wazwan and elaborate family dinners. The green tea leaves are brought in from neighbouring Kangra region which has been known to historically export green tea to Kashmir, Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia.
- Saberi, Helen (2010-10-15). Tea: A Global History. Reaktion Books. ISBN 9781861898920.
- "The Spicy, Aromatic Kashmiri Kahwa Can Soothe Your Winter Blues". The Quint. 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
- Ahuja, P. S.; Gulati, A.; Singh, R. D.; Sud, R. K.; Boruah, R. C. (2013-01-01). Science of Tea Technology. Scientific Publishers. p. 12. ISBN 9789387741089.