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Kehwa: Kashmir’s quintessential beverage

Post by on Thursday, August 12, 2021

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Whenever I would catch a cold or cough, Kehwa was the first word that would come on the lips of my grandmother. My grandmother never had anything for her common cold but Kehwa, so is the case with my father (in-law). He would ask us to brew a cup of Kehwa if he feels a sore throat or flu, this holds true for almost every household in Kashmir. 
 
 
 
Kehwa in Kashmiri is derived from the word 'keh' which means ‘eleven’. According to experts it's prepared with 11 ingredients which include cinnamon, green cardamom, saffron, black pepper, cloves, tea leaves, honey or sugar, almonds etc.
 
 
 
Kehwa is a concoction of different spices prepared in different ways. It has found its way in Kashmir through silk route, according to experts. Zareer Ahmad Zareef, a cultural expert, says that during ancient times Kehwa was a beverage consumed by the rich.
 
 
 
"Common households would serve kehwa during special occasions like Eid, weddings etc. Normally a Kashmiri would either drink machran chai made of a particular herb or tui'th in case of indigestion etc. Only the rich would consume the Kehwa. Common Kashmir would prepare kehwa with Bombay chai."
 
 
 
He further says that Mughals made it famous in Kashmir and during the era of Unani medicine Hakeems would suggest people to drink Kehwa made with different herbs.
 
 
 
"Kehwa would also be offered in shrines as benediction. Initially it would be prepared with simple spices like cinnamon but eventually things keep on adding."
 
 
 
Dried almond flowers, dried coconut, almonds and saffron were later added into Kehwa, he says.
 
 
 
 
 
Some of the types of Kehwa prepared in Kashmir include Dalcheen Kehwa, Konge kehwa, Badien kehwa and Badam kehwa. 
 
 
 
Whether occasion of marriage or mourning, Kehwa forms an important part of Kashmiri culture. 
 
 
 
 
 
Dalcheen Kehwa
 
 
 
This isn't just about the kehwa but the aroma that fills your kitchen whilst it's brewing. It is a natural throat reliever and is a preferred remedy for cold in Kashmir. During ancient times no household in Kashmir would begin their day without sipping freshly brewed kehwa. 
 
 
 
The preparation begins by boiling water, let's say two cups, in a pan. To this water, cinnamon and green cardamom is added. One can also add tea leaves as well for the additional colour. Let the water boil for some time till it reduces to half. By now you will notice the colour of cinnamon coming through. At this stage you can add more water, if you wish to, adjust the sugar according to your taste. 
 
 
 
The freshly brewed kehwa is ready. This health drink is beneficial to many ailments according to people of Kashmir. 
 
 
 
"It has been treating my sore throat for ages now. My mother would prepare it for me when I was young and it would immediately soothe my head. It isn't like modern day drinks which are only harmful to one's health," says Abdul Ahad Bhat, an elderly person from downtown. 
 
 
 
Saffron Kehwa
 
 
 
This kehwa is usually prepared for gatherings, since saffron is an expensive spice so it's not prepared on a daily basis. It's served in huge samovars for the gatherings. 
 
 
 
The preparation includes boiling water with cardamom. The water is allowed to boil till cardamom releases its aroma. More water is added to it at this stage. After this, already dissolved saffron and sugar is added to it. It’s allowed to brew till the golden colour of saffron becomes noticeable. At this stage you can also add almonds to it. For garnishing purposes also almonds are added in the serving cups. 
 
 
 
This concoction has a peculiar aroma and is served either with kulchas or shermal. 
 
 
 
Saunf kehwa
 
 
 
This concoction is usually a remedial drink for bloating and other digestive issues. 
 
 
 
"My grandmother would prepare badain kehwa for my daughter whenever she would have colic or constipation. Once my daughter had constipation and she would cry profusely. Seeing her condition my granny immediately prepared this concoction and she was relieved.," says Maneja Altaf, a mother. 
 
 
 
It's also suggested to be good for weight reduction. "I have heard my parents saying that it regulates blood pressure, improves skin and purifies and provides relief in bloating and digestion," says Maqbool Arif, a govt employee. 
 
 
 
Badain kehwa is simply prepared by boiling Badain or saunf in water. Greed cardamom and sugar is optional here. 
 
 
 
Almond Kehwa
 
 
 
This kehwa is relished mostly in winters to keep you warm. It's also prepared on special occasions. 
 
 
 
The Kehwa is prepared with milk, sugar and almonds boiled over sometime. The mixture is allowed to boil to thicken the consistency of milk. Green cardamom is optional though it adds flavour to this Kehwa. It's a nutritional drink given the amount of milk and almonds in it. 
 
 
 
"Usually it’s served in samovars on special occasions like Eid or betrothal etc. It’s basically served to special guests since tea is considered to be common," says Maria, an engineer. 
 
 
 
 
 
QUOTES
 
 
 
Kehwa in Kashmiri is derived from the word 'keh' which means ‘eleven’. According to experts it's prepared with 11 ingredients which include cinnamon, green cardamom, saffron, black pepper, cloves, tea leaves, honey or sugar, almonds etc.
 
 
 
The preparation includes boiling water with cardamom. The water is allowed to boil till cardamom releases its aroma. More water is added to it at this stage. After this, already dissolved saffron and sugar is added to it. It’s allowed to brew till the golden colour of saffron becomes noticeable. At this stage you can also add almonds to it. For garnishing purposes almonds are added in the serving cups. 
 
 
 
The Kehwa is prepared with milk, sugar and almonds boiled over sometime. The mixture is allowed to boil to thicken the consistency of milk. Green cardamom is optional though it adds flavour to this type of Kehwa. It's a nutritional drink given the amount of milk and almonds in it. 
 
 

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