Kashmiri pink chai, also called noon chai or pink tea, is a creamy, smooth, spicy beverage known for its iconic bright pink hue.
Kashmiri tea recipes vary from recipe to recipe, but there’s one quality that all of these unique Indian teas have that sets them apart: these teas are a beautiful pastel pink color.
Kashmiri chai is a milk tea with a beautiful pink color made from Kashmiri tea leaves. The traditional method calls for baking soda, milk, and gunpowder tea.
This tea gets its distinctive pink color from a chemical reaction between the boiling hot tea and the baking soda that is added to it during brewing. It’s often garnished with a sprinkle of crushed nuts or dry fruits.
Kashmiri tea has been around for hundreds of years. However, it only recently began to gain serious popularity outside of India.
Keep reading to learn more about this unique tea and how to make it.
What Is Kashmiri Tea?
Kashmiri tea is a tea recipe that involves turning a loose-leaf green tea blend into a concentrate before adding iced water and baking soda to create a chemical reaction.
Aerating the Kashmiri tea with a ladle is one of the steps that help give Kashmiri tea its reddish coloring, which transforms to a pink shade when milk is added to the brew.
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What Is Kashmiri Tea Made Of?
Kashmiri tea has five major ingredients:
- Gunpowder tea: Gunpowder tea is a special type of tea originating with the British Army in India that is loose leaf tea rolled into round little balls resembling musket ammo.
- Milk: Milk is an integral part of Kashmiri tea because it helps smooth out the tea’s flavor and gives it a soft pastel pink color when a splash of it is added to the tea and stirred in.
- Baking soda: Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) provides the chemical reaction when it reacts with the tea that gives the tea its initial red color. It also causes the Kashmiri tea to bubble when added.
- Ice-cold water: Iced water is necessary for shocking the green tea concentrate used as the base for the Kashmiri tea.
- Spices: The traditional way to make this tea uses cardamom pods, but other spices like cinnamon, cloves, and star anise are also used.
The chemical actions of the baking soda, iced tea, and aeration together are what give Kashmiri tea its frothy pink appearance.
Along with the above ingredients, crushed pistachios and other nuts are often sprinkled over the top of the tea as a garnish.
Many drinkers also add a pinch of salt to deepen the savory flavor of the tea.
What Makes Kashmiri Tea Pink?
The reason that Kashmiri tea recipes are pink is that the baking soda they contain interacts with some of the polyphenols present in green gunpowder tea.
These polyphenols mimic the chemical actions of phenolsulfonphthalein. This chemical is a common pH indicator that is more commonly known as phenol red.
When baking soda is added to these polyphenols, it causes them to have a base reaction. This is what gives the Kashmiri tea its red coloring, which is then diluted with milk to pink.
Other Names for Kashmiri Tea
If you’re a tea lover of this wonderful recipe, you’ll come across many other names for this traditional pink tea:
- Kashmiri noon chai
- Sheer chai (Kashmiri Hindu name)
- Namkeen chai
- Pink tea
- Gulabi chai
- Noon chai or nun chai (loosely translates to “salt tea”. The word “noon” means salt in several Indian languages, including the Kashmiri language.)
Health Benefits of Kashmiri Tea
Kashmiri tea is a popular drink for its bright color and flavor, but there are also many health advantages associated with this ancient drink.
These are some of the health benefits of drinking Kashmiri tea:
- Rich in antioxidants: The green tea used to make Kashmiri tea recipes is full of botanical chemicals which can help stave off degenerative diseases like cancer.
- Stress relief: The green tea in Kashmiri tea contains a chemical called L-theanine. This chemical reduces stress and induces relaxation.
- Caffeine: Green tea contains a form of the stimulant caffeine that is less bioavailable than the caffeine in other drinks like coffee, giving it a more mellow effect.
- Increased metabolism: Green tea can boost your metabolic rate and help the body burn calories more efficiently, making it a good weight loss tool with diet and exercise.
Kashmiri tea is a healthy choice for a tea-based drink if you’re looking to swap up your regular morning brew. The medicinal advantages of green tea are even more appealing than its flavor.
What Does Kashmiri Tea Taste Like?
Kashmiri tea has a milky, creamy flavor with notes of grass and citrus from the green tea that it is based on.
This unique drink is different from the more widely known Masala chai because it’s not made with a stronger black tea base, but uses green tea.
Sometimes small amounts of spices are included in Kashmiri tea, though it isn’t as heavily spiced as its cousin Indian chai tea. Chai is typically seasoned with heavy amounts of strong spices like cinnamon, cloves, and black peppercorns.
In comparison, Kashmiri tea is a more delicate-tasting drink that is gently spiced with green cardamom pods and cinnamon.
How to Make Kashmiri Tea
The process of making Kashmiri tea is slightly more complicated than making a mug of regular green tea, but with a few easy recipes, it’s definitely doable. However it does take some time since an important step is reducing the tea mixture until there’s very little water left.
- Kashmiri chai leaves (you can also regular green tea leaves, but your resulting tea may not be quite as pink)
- Water to make the concentrated tea
- Spices (cardamom pods, star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks)
- Baking soda (also called bicarbonate of soda)
- Ice water
- Sweetener of choice
- Crushed pistachios or almonds for garnish
- Make the tea concentrate (kashmiri kahwa): Using one cup of water, two tablespoons of green gunpowder Kashmiri tea, and spices, boil the tea until the amount of liquid is reduced by half. If you’re in a hurry, just bring the mixture to a rolling boil before going on to the next step.
- Add baking soda: The pinch of baking soda is the ingredient that gives Kashmiri tea its distinctive color, so it’s a vital addition. Don’t add too much, or the tea will be bitter. It will fizz up a bit when you add it. Allow the mixture to boil over high heat for 5 minutes.
- Aerate the tea: Once the baking soda is added to the tea, it should begin to bubble and froth. Aerate the tea by ladling the tea repeatedly to push oxygen into it. Just scoop up a ladle full and pour it back into the pot.
- Shock the green tea concentrate: After making the green tea concentrate, iced water should be added to shock the concentrate.
- Add the milk: After the tea is properly aerated and takes on a rich red color, it’s time to add the milk. Adding milk and stirring should turn the Kashmiri into the perfect cup of pink tea. Bring the mixture back to a boil and remove from heat.
- Add a pinch of salt and sweetener: Add sweetener and a bit of salt and adjust for your taste.
This is the authentic process for making Kashmiri tea recipes, but you can add a more concentrated tea to reduce the amount of time spent making the tea concentrate if you wish.
Whole spices like cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cardamom seeds can also be added during the brewing process to give the tea a stronger spicy flavor.
Kashmiri Chai Tea Recipe
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp Kashmiri gunpowder green tea leaves
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 2 star anise pods
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup ice water
- 1 cup whole milk
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 2 Tbs sugar, brown sugar, or simple syrup
- Crushed pistachios for garnish
- In a medium saucepan, boil water, tea, and spices over high heat.
- Once the mixture is boiling, add baking soda. It will fizz up, so be ready. Allow to boil for 5 minutes.
- During the boiling time, aerate the mixture by gently ladling the liquid out and back into the saucepan, being careful not to burn yourself on the splashes.
- If mixture is still green, add a bit more baking soda until mixture becomes reddish.
- Carefully pour in ice water, milk, salt, and sweetener, bring back to a boil and then remove from heat.
- Strain into two cups, adjust sweetener, and garnish with crushed pistachios.
- Enjoy with a friend.
Kashmiri tea can be difficult to find. Gunpowder green tea is a good substitute.
Try adding a cinnamon stick, and a few whole cloves for added flavor.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 125Trans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gFiber: 0g
Nutrition figures are estimates. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information for any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe.
How to Serve Kashmiri Tea
Once brewed and aerated, Kashmiri tea is usually garnished with a crumble of crushed pistachios and other nuts.
Kashmiri tea is traditionally served hot, but this tea can also be made into a cold or iced tea. Kashmiri chai is sometimes used as the base for bubble or boba tea recipes.
Can you buy Kashmiri tea?
Luckily, you can buy almost anything online and Kashmiri tea is no exception. You can get Kashmiri Kahwa (tea leaves already mixed with spices) like this one:
And even instant Kashmiri tea in packets that you just mix with hot water:
Kashmiri Tea Is a Pakistani Treasure
Despite its relative obscurity, Kashmiri chai is one of the most beautiful and delicious tea varieties to come out of the Kashmir valley in south Asia.
Chock full of nutrients and unique flavor, this dusty pink tea is sure to add some pizzazz to your morning tea routine.