Kashmiri Chai, also called noon chai or pink tea, is a creamy, smooth, yet spicy beverage instantly recognisable for its iconic bright pink colour. Our recipe will come in handy if you have ever wanted to experience this rare and exotic delicacy.
You'll never need to find an ethnic cafe near you when you can start making noon chai at home.
Our recipe will show you how to make this delicious drink using two distinct methods. The traditional method and also a more straightforward, modern procedure. Our tried and tested noon chai recipe will give you the best, pinkest Kashmiri chai possible with the utmost ease!
- What is pink tea made of?
- What does Kashmiri chai taste like?
- How does Kashmiri tea turn pink?
- Noon chai history
- Kashmiri chai (pink tea) benefits
- Kashmiri chai calories
- Kashmiri chai ingredients
- Pink tea using tea bags
- Noon chai using powder
- Why is my Kashmiri chai not pink?
- Pink Tea Cooking Tips
- Pink Tea Recipe (Kashmiri Chai or Noon Chai)
What is pink tea made of?
Traditionally, you will make pink tea (Kashmiri chai) out of Kashmiri green tea leaves, milk, salt, baking soda, and spices. It originated in the Kashmir region of Northern India, where they usually serve it savoury. However, you will see this drink served throughout the Indian subcontinent, in places such as Pakistan and central India.
In these places, people have sometimes modified it to contain sugar or any other sweetener since savoury chai is not very common in this region. Similarly, they also top it with nuts and dry fruits. In Kashmir, this is a staple drink at breakfast or in the evening.
We can make Kashmiri noon chai using 'gunpowder tea'. This form consists of leaves rolled into small round pellets resembling gunpowder grains. However, you can also use other forms of tea. For example, loose leaves, bags and powder work too.
Pink tea also contains spices, usually a mix of cardamom, anise, cinnamon, and occasionally cloves. These spices provide a warming sensation to the body when you drink the beverage. And that's why this drink is perfect in the cold, snowy climate of Kashmir.
What does Kashmiri chai taste like?
Kashmiri chai usually tastes like a creamy, milky, floral hot drink, with warmth from the spices and salt. However, it lacks the more robust and darker bouquet of regular chai since you make it with green and not black tea leaves. Variations include adding sugar, nuts, and dry fruits that add fattiness, sweetness, and a delicious crunch.
How does Kashmiri tea turn pink?
Kashmiri noon chai turns pink due to a chemical reaction between the chlorophyll in the leaves and the baking soda added to the Kashmiri chai recipe.
Pink tea results from a laborious process combining science and art. The first stage involves boiling green tea leaves and baking soda for an extended period of time. When cooked with a small quantity of baking soda, the fermented leaves change in colour from amber to deep crimson.
This acidic infusion is neutralised by sodium bicarbonate. As a result, the reaction improves the colour while lessening the astringency of tannins in the leaves.
Scientists refer to this as an acid-base reaction. In order to maintain the colour after the tea turns burgundy, you have to shock it with ice or cold water.
The Kashmiri chai becomes pink when you pour milk into it. The boiling dairy liquid is repeatedly ladled back and forth into the saucepan and vigorously aerated. This technique is similar to foaming milk for coffee and other variations of this hot drink, like in dirty chai or Thai tea.
Noon chai history
Pink tea is related to the salty milk infusions of Central Asia. They are typically prepared and served in a copper vessel. These central Asian varieties include the Uyghur etkanchay and the Mongolian suutei tsai.
According to legend, this drink travelled through the Silk Road from Yarkand, now in Xinjiang, China, to Kashmir. However, the usage of baking soda suggests that this particular drink originated much closer to India. Noon chai is an integral part of Kashmiri culture, locals drink it 2-3 times a day at a minimum.
Kashmiri chai (pink tea) benefits
Tea, in general, is a healthier option, but Kashmiri chai has exceptionally well benefits to your health.
It contains potent antioxidants, namely, catechins. They are known to improve digestion and boost metabolism. It also contains phenols, which help inhibit bacterial growth on teeth and prevent other periodontal diseases.
In addition, since this beverage is rich in vitamin B12, it also strengthens the immune system. And finally, it tastes delicious and will be sure to reduce your stress level!
Kashmiri pink tea benefits you from sipping this creamy concoction once a day.
Kashmiri chai calories
A single serving of Kashmiri chai contains only around 100 calories. However, adding extra milk and sugar will substantially increase the calorie count.
Kashmiri chai ingredients
The Kashmiri chai ingredients needed to make pink tea include tea leaves, milk, spices, salt and baking soda.
As mentioned previously, "gunpowder" or ball-rolled tea leaves, also known as a Kashmiri chai patti, are the preferred leaf form for noon chai.
Sometimes, roasted leaves, specifically pink tea leaves, are also used to add smokiness to the floral and herbal bouquet.
Full-fat cow's milk is the most common creamer for making Kashmiri chai. However, you can add cream to accentuate the drink's creaminess.
Although many cooks will not encourage using plant milk, it is still an acceptable substitute. However, some non-dairy milk won't give you strong pink colour to the beverage when added. Additionally, it might not add to the drink's distinct creaminess and lightness either. But we assure you it will still taste great!
The most common spices used in Kashmiri chai are star anise, cinnamon, green cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, and rarely black cardamom or even saffron.
However, you may add as many or as few of these spices as you wish. Additionally, crushed pistachios or almonds can be used as toppings if sugar or a sweetener is added.
Some cafes may choose to add dried rose petals or rose syrup to enhance the pink colour. However, adding these rose ingredients is not traditional nor authentic.
Salt is one of the most characteristic, traditional, and essential ingredients in Kashmiri chai. The use of salt, along with the noon chai leaves, gives the drink its distinctive flavour. Typically, restaurants will choose to use pink Himalayan rock salt. However, sea salt or ordinary white table salt will work perfectly well too.
This is also an essential ingredient as it gives the chai its unique pink colour. Do not exclude this if you want the magic pink colour. However, if you absolutely must, you can use pink food colouring instead.
Traditionally, we do not add sweeteners to this beverage. But if you want some added sweetness in your chai, use regular white sugar.
Pink tea using tea bags
You can also make this drink using tea bags! The use of Kashmiri pink tea bags or Kashmiri chai tea bags may be used to achieve an authentic flavour. This isn't mandatory but may help you speed up the cooking process slightly.
Firstly, you would cut the bags open and use the leaves inside, similar to a loose leaf infusion. Using two bags for every one serving of this drink is sufficient.
If you want to keep the leaves as is, you can boil them in the bags, but this may result in a less intense result. Make sure to add them to cold water first and boil them for at least a minute.
The resulting drink will most likely taste less robust and overtly floral. Additionally, using bags will take longer as the leaves used in them are intended to be boiled for longer.
Of course, using the leaves whilst still in the bag might not impart the vibrant colour iconic to the pink tea. In this case, try using food colouring, rose syrup, or drinking it as is.
Noon chai using powder
The steps to making this recipe, in short, are:
- Boil the tea powder and spices.
- Add baking soda and salt. Aerate the mixture.
- Add ice water and additional baking soda to initiate the colour change.
- Boil milk and salt. Add the kehwa* to the milk tea.
- Garnish with crushed nuts and serve hot!
*Kehwa refers to the traditional preparation of green tea in the Indian subcontinent.
We do not recommend using Japanese matcha powder since it doesn't mesh well with spices, fats, salt, and baking soda. Not only would the drink not end up pink, but it would also not turn out as tasty.
On the other hand, using prepackaged green tea or Kashmiri chai powder would produce a better result. Make sure to thoroughly mix this, so you don't end up with a grainy and clumpy drink.
Although powder would be faster to use as it imparts flavour almost immediately, it may not be as aromatic. However, powder use could also be more cost-effective, especially if you are not a regular chai drinker.
We highly recommend using loose-leaf green tea or bags if you are going to make noon chai, as it depends entirely on the infusion process.
Why is my Kashmiri chai not pink?
There are several reasons why your noon chai might not be pink.
The first and most simple reason is that the chemical reaction required to change the colour of the chlorophyll in the tea to pink never took place. This issue could be because you used too much baking soda, not enough, added it in at the wrong time, or the water was at the wrong temperature.
Another potential reason your pink tea might not be pink is that certain varieties of green tea might not produce the chemical reaction required for the colour change. In such a scenario, turn to food colouring, rose syrup, or drink it as is - the flavours would still be delicious!
Pink Tea Cooking Tips
Here are some helpful tips for brewing the perfect Kashmiri chai every time!
- Try using Kashmiri or gunpowder green tea for the best results. If not, try using these other forms of green tea in the following order of preference: loose leaf, bags, or powder.
- You will need a ladle, a wide pot, and a strainer to make this recipe. You will not need other special equipment.
- If you would like to expand the flavour profile, try adding a small amount of saffron to your Kashmiri chai with the rest of the spices for a more complex taste.
- Including all the spices listed in the noon chai recipe is not a requirement. Instead, you can use whichever ones you have on hand.
- If the colour of the Kashmiri chai does not change from green to red at the end of this recipe, it might be the fault of the leaves used. In this case, use red food colouring or rose syrup to change the colour.
- If you use rose syrup, adjust the amount of sweetener accordingly since the syrup is quite sweet.
Pink Tea Recipe (Kashmiri Chai or Noon Chai)
- 4 cups cold water
- 480 g whole milk
- 5 tbsps Kashmiri gunpowder tea leaves
- ⅓ teaspoon baking soda
- 3 cm cinnamon (stick)
- 3-4 whole green cardamom pods
- 1 star anise
- 2 whole cloves
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
- 1 cup ice water
- Add the cold water, leaves, and the spices to a wide pot. Put the heat on medium-high and bring everything to a boil.
- Once the liquid starts to boil, add baking soda and salt. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer until you see that the liquid has reduced to half its initial quantity (around 2 cups). Occasionally, use a spoon, scoop the liquid up high above the pot, and pour it back down. This pouring technique will help aerate the kehwa.
- After the reduction is complete, pour the ice water into the pot from high above. Remove the ice cubes before you do this. Do not turn off the heat - instead, reduce it to the lowest possible setting.
- Continue to aerate the mixture by using a ladle and pouring from up high until the colour deepens. If, after a maximum of 7-8 minutes, the colour has not changed from green to pink, add more baking soda a pinch at a time until it does. If the colour has not yet changed after adding a whole teaspoon extra of baking soda, do not add more. Turn off the heat and strain the kehwa. You can let it cool, store it, and use it later.
- To make the chai, boil milk in a saucepan or pot until it is at a light boil. Add the kehwa, any sweeteners, or any extra spices if used. Afterwards, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the tea steep for 2-3 minutes before straining again into serving mugs.
- Garnish with crushed nuts and dry fruits if used. Serve hot, and enjoy your Kashmiri chai!
- If you don't like the idea of a savoury beverage, you can exclude the salt. However, remember that salt is the most traditionally essential component of pink tea.
- If you cannot find pink Himalayan salt, try any table salt or sea salt.
- You can include sugar in this recipe if you wish. Use one tablespoon of white sugar or its equivalent per serving of noon chai. Other sugar alternatives that you can use include brown sugar, honey or a sugar-free sweetener such as stevia.
- You can substitute the whole cinnamon stick for ½ teaspoon or 1.3 g of ground cinnamon.
- Make sure the ice water is ice cold. You can use ice cubes melted down into the water instead of adding them to room temperature water. This step is crucial to the chemical reaction which results in pink tea.
- If you're short of spices, you can choose to substitute Chinese five spice powder for all the ground spices mentioned above. The use of this spice powder is not traditional and will result in an infusion that tastes quite interesting. So, it's an interesting experiment if you want your Kashmiri chai fix while short on spices.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
Eisha Nasir ka kitchen on Youtube has a detailed video recipe showing step-by-step the process of making this fulfilling hot drink. You can see the process of preparing the tea reduction and assembling the final beverage from their Youtube video.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article about Kashmiri chai! Although it is relatively unpopular in the Western world, it is a part of the cultures of many countries in the Indian subcontinent, and we hope you try this recipe! If you enjoyed this and want to discover more delicious drinks, follow us on Instagram @honestfoodtalks!