Kashmiris are known to be connoisseurs of tea. One of their traditional beverages is noon chai or a pink-coloured special Kashmiri tea made with gunpowder tea (green tea leaves rolled into small balls), milk, sea salt and baking soda. The word “noon” means salt in several Indian languages.
Kashmiris usually drink noon chai in the morning and in the afternoon with naan bread. Some people also drink it during their working hours.
The origins of noon chai are not confirmed. It is believed to have originated in the Indian subcontinent, in the Kashmir Valley. Some experts, however, trace it back to Yarkand in Turkestan, where Atkan chai is made with salt, milk and butter. As legend goes, Kashmir’s first Muslim Sultan Saddruddin Shah (Rinchana) embraced Islam at the hands of Sayed Sharafuddin Shah from Kashgar, Turkestan, mentions madeinkashmir.org.
How is Noon chai made?
For this, green tea leaves are brewed in sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) until a thick red-brown colour extract, known as “tueth”, is obtained. This may take about 45 minutes to two hours. This is then diluted with water, followed by adding milk and salt to it. The tea is served in a flask or large samovar (brass utensil) which keeps it warm by burning coal inside.
Health benefits of Noon chai
A 2013 study by International Journal of Case Reports and Images, says that people love to drink noon chai “at high temperature particularly during winters”, for warmth. It is known to have digestive properties because of the sodium bicarbonate content. As per Kashmiri folklore, noon chai is refreshing in the heat and resists cold during winters. It is known to prevent heartburn and bloating because of the cardamom and baking soda content. It is also known to reduce stress and anxiety as it contains L-theanine, an amino acid component, according to reports.
Here’s a recipe by chef Sanjeev Kapoor that you can try:
2 tbsp – Tea leaves
4-5 – Green cardamoms
1 tsp – Salt
1 tsp – Soda bicarbonate
1 inch – Cinnamon
1 – Star anise
2 cups – Milk
1 tbsp – Sugar
8-10 – Pistachios
* Heat two cups of water in a deep non-stick pan and bring to a boil.
* Open cardamom pods and add seeds to the pan along with tea leaves, salt, soda bicarbonate, cinnamon, star anise and stir. Bring this to a boil.
* Add milk, mix well and bring it to a boil. Discard tea leaves and spices.
* Add sugar and mix well and let the sugar melt. Strain the tea in a tea kettle.
* Add finely chopped pistachios. Pour the tea in individual cups, garnish with chopped pistachios and serve hot.
Researchers, however, have argued that the salt intake through pink tea or Noon chai could increase the risk of gastric cancer. High consumption of salt (more than four cups a day) is independently associated with high risk of the gastric cancer, so it is advised to limite the its consumption.
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