Four cups of tea: Bringing people together for years

Published: April 2, 2014
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Pakistan's social activities revolve around tea drinking mostly.

“If you want to thrive in Baltistan, you must respect our ways. The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time, you are an honoured guest. The third time, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die. Dr Greg, you must take time to share three cups of tea. We may be uneducated but we are not stupid. We have lived and survived here for a long time.” – Three Cups of Tea.

Last week became a little strange. First, the Express Tribune blogs team asked if I would be interested in writing a blog on various types of teas served in Pakistan. Then, a few of my blog readers from here and there requested if I could show them how I make my copper coloured tea. Later, I met a Sri Lankan photographer, with six books under his belt, who recently visited Pakistan for the first time and fell in love with Lahore. He is currently working on his next book on tea drinking cultures around Asia. My next blog was obviously staring at me, demanding action.

In Pakistan, tea happens to bring people together. Given the fact that there is no bar culture in Pakistan, our social activities revolve around tea drinking mostly. The emergences of coffee and tea shops in last five to seven years have suddenly made tea drinking quite fashionable and trendy.

In every office, visitors and employers are offered tea; every time a guest comes over to visit, we offer them tea; travellers take a break only to have some tea; students run to cafeterias during their breaks to enjoy some tea and samosas. Match making and marriage proposals happen around tea; gossip sessions happen around tea; problem solving happens around tea; mends are made with estranged friends and family over tea. No wonder Pakistan is the third largest tea importer in the world. Last year, Pakistan imported tea worth $610 million.

To sum it up, we Pakistanis love our cup of tea and cannot start our day without a cup of tea. Therefore, I am going to share four different types of teas enjoyed all over Pakistan.

Regular Mixed Chai

Photo: Ambreen Malik

Ingredients:

Water – 1 ½ cup

Milk – 50 ml (full fat)

Loose black tea – ¾ tbsp (Tapal Danedar is my favourite Pakistani tea)

Sugar – to taste (I like my tea sweet – 1 ½ tsp per cup)

Method:

1) Boil water in the sauce pan.

2) Add loose tea leaves to boiling water.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

3) Cover and let it simmer for one minute over low heat till the tea becomes dark orange.

4) Add milk to the tea. Mix and let it simmer over low flame for one to two minutes.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

5) Strain and serve in a cup or a teapot. During winters, I like to add cardamom and cinnamon to the tea for that extra aroma and flavour.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

Doodh Patti – Milk Tea

Photo: Ambreen Malik

This tea is quite popular and favoured not only by truck drivers but also the urban working class in Pakistan. It is served at all dhabas along the highway and cafes within the city. This tea, which has more milk content than water, can be served at any time of the day and is particularly loved when paired with a paratha and fried eggs for breakfast.

Ingredients:

Milk – ¾ cup (full fat)

Water – ½ cup

Loose Tea – 1 tsp

Method:

1) Mix water and milk together and let it boil in a sauce pan.

2) Once it comes to a boil, add tea to the mixture.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

3) Cover and let it simmer for three to four minutes till the colour turns coppery.

3) Strain and serve with sugar.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

Kashmiri Chai / Noon Cha (Pink Tea / Salty Tea)

Photo: Ambreen Malik

Pink tea hails from Kashmir and has been lovingly embraced by the rest of Pakistan. This tea is served with joy and enthusiasm in winters, especially at weddings. No mehndi ceremony is complete without the unlimited supply of Kashmiri chai served between the dance routine intervals. Post-dinner hangouts always include stops for Kashmiri chai.

While living in Islamabad, Munchies in F6 was and still is my favourite Kashmiri chai spot. It was always more fun when you stuff a small car with eight people and drive down to Munchies only to have Kashmiri chai and then fight over who pays the bill.

This tea recipe belongs to my friend Nageen Apa.

Ingredients:

Water – 1 ½ cup

Water – 1 ½ cups (ice cold)

Loose pink tea – 1 tsp

Baking soda – 1/8 tsp

Milk – ½ cup (boiled with cardamom and fennel seeds)

Almonds and pistachios – 3 to 4 tsp (partially grounded)

Sugar – to taste

Salt – to taste

Method:

1) Mix water and loose pink tea in a sauce pan. Cover and let it come to a boil.

2) Once it starts boiling, add the baking soda and let it simmer on low heat for five minutes until the tea turns orange.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

3) Add the cold water to the hot mixture and aerate it with a ladle (spoon) for 20 -25 minutes over low flame. The tea will change in colour to shocking pink.

4) Slowly add the boiled milk mixture to the tea.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

5) Mix it and let it boil for two to three minutes. The colour of the tea will turn into a beautiful pastel pink.

6) Strain the tea into the cups and add crushed almonds and pistachios.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

Traditionally, this tea is served with a pinch of salt and sugar, and that is how it is served in urban cafes as well.

Green Tea / Sabz Chai / Kahwa

Photo: Ambreen Malik

In Pakistani households, every dinner and lunch is followed by green tea. Pakistan’s favourite tends to be either the Chinese jasmine tea or the Peshawari kahwa. These teas are aimed at aiding digestion after a meal.

Ingredients:

Loose jasmine tea – 1/2 tsp

Water – 2 cups

Mint – 10 to 12 leaves

Green cardamom – 2 to 3

Lemon – 2 wedges

Method:

1) Add loose jasmine tea, green cardamoms and mint leaves into a teapot and pour boiling water.

2) Let it sit for two to four minutes.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

3) Serve with a few drops or a slice of lemon. Some even prefer the tea with sugar.

Photo: Ambreen Malik

So here, today, instead of the Baltistani three cups of tea, I will offer you four as a prayer, for eternal happiness, prosperity and health!

This post originally appeared here

Ambreen Malik

Ambreen Malik

The author is a Microfinance Banker, food blogger, LSE Alum and a dragon in training. She tweets as @ambreen_malik (twitter.com/ambreen_malik)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.