If you ask any Indian to name a place equivalent to or even better than Switzerland, they’ll immediately say – Jammu & Kashmir! The Himalayas are known for their magical charm especially because of their whistling woods of eucalyptus, pine and deodar cedar trees. With River Ganga flowing through the Himalayas, the entire northern region is fertile and prosperous. Adorning abundance in everything. Holy. Tranquil. Peaceful. Enchanting. Closer to Mother Nature.
Kashmir is undoubtedly one of my favourite holiday destinations. It’s safe to say that I’ve been there a few times, and each time the beautiful valleys of snow clad mountains and the breath of fresh air always makes me feel like I’m teleported to paradise.
It was during my Amarnath Yatra in 2014 that I discovered a very unique green tea called “kahwah”. A traditional Kashmiri green tea which has the world’s most expensive spice – Kesar/Saffron as one of its key ingredients.
Kahwah is essentially made from locally produced Kashmiri green tea leaves, in combination with nuts, spices and condiments. It is generally brewed in a brass kettle known as samovar. It is prepared with a piece of hot charcoal inside the samovar or by simply making it on a sigdi the pahadi style.
The experience of enjoying kahwah for the first time was so amazing, that I still can’t forget it. Sitting outside my tent, facing snow clad mountains with sparkly white peaks and sipping on my kahwah from my kulhad while being covered in 6 layers of clothing, sheltering myself under a blanket with my legs folded on a khatiya. Inhaling layers of aroma from cardamom to saffron to dried apple and even rose petals felt like absolute luxury.
Amarnath Yatra is always during winter and people live in tents placed between the highest himalayan mountain range, after Mount Everest. It is one of the most difficult pilgrimage in India, following Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. The yatris(travellers) to Amarnath are Shiv Ji’s Baratis on their way to celebrate Shiv Parvati wedding.
#DidYouKnow It is said that one Amarnath Yatra = darshanof all tirth yatras in the world. Sins are washed away. Blessings are bestowed.
It’s a grand celebration! Even with the minus degree temperature, low oxygen level and our bodies shivering at almost every stage. Life at the moment felt unreal.
Chai is home and kahwah is home in the middle of Himalayas. Not only does it keep you warm through knee deep snow clad roads and unpredictable weather, but also has many healing and beneficial properties for stress, cold, digestion, stamina and much more.
P.S. The saffron content in Kahwah makes it the perfect heating agent to beat the freezing cold.
Many local vendors dressed in pehran (their traditional attire) come to sell saffron, kahwah and shilajeet inside the tents. We bought our stock from there. There’s something about supporting small time local vendors, it feels good. So far away in such cold, they were working to feed their family. Also, this is a seasonal income for them. Actually, I was so fascinated by their pehran, that I couldn’t believe that something so simple and comfortable could actually be so warm, unlike any sweater we may have.
#SelfReminder I’ve got to get one on my next trip.
#ProTip Kahwah easily available in the region, but beware of the authenticity of the produce. Check if the saffron is bleeding on a white cloth in its natural form, otherwise it’s artificial.
#ProTip If you are ordering from Kashmir, you might as well order for saffron and shilajeet because can’t get it better than that! Only buy from trusted sources. Remember.
But, if you can get your hands on it, enjoy it while the winter lasts. Winter is the most forgiving season to enjoy such indulgence and gain the best out of it.
*Images used for representative purpose, contact for credits.*