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“Noone Chay” | The traditional Kashmiri Pink Tea

06:46 AM Jun 30, 2024 IST | Prof Upendra Kaul
“noone chay”    the traditional kashmiri pink tea

The day in a Kashmiri home starts with the pink coloured salted tea “Noone Chay” invariably with a freshly made bread, Tchot or Girda. This is true in all the seasons from warm summer to a bitingly cold winter. During the day it is often consumed again.


Afternoon time it is taken with Kulcha a gigantic biscuit with a crumbly and crunchy texture or with Katlama a bread cooked in flaky layers. Anything that is buttery will normally pair well with this drink.


Noone Chay is also called Sheer Chay (Sheer is milk in Persian) by Kashmiri Pundits. There is a difference on the timing of consuming it. Pundits take Kahwa (Moghul Chay) in morning and Sheer Chay after lunch and in the afternoon.


Historically it is reported to have come to Kashmir via the silk route from Yarkand which now is Xinjiang, China. It is also related to other Central Asian salty milk teas Uyghur tea “etkanchay and the Mongolian tea “suutei tsai”.


Syed Ali Hamdani, a Persian missionary and Sufi saint who visited Central Asia in the 14th century, made Noon Chai popular in Kashmir. He influenced more than just spiritual matters, including food. Persian cooking greatly impacted what people in Kashmir ate, making Noon Chai a mix of local and Persian traditions.


Hamdani didn’t just bring the idea of this spiced tea to Kashmir; he also introduced the craft of making samovars. These metal urns, crucial for brewing Noon Chai, became common in Kashmiri homes. This helped make Noon Chai a key part of local culture.


Making it has a very special technique which needs to be patiently followed. It cannot have ready to make mixes as in the case of several other teas and coffees. It is made from green tea leaves but traditionally a special kind of tea known as gunpowder tea, which essentially is made from rolling young tea leaves into small round pellets which resemble the texture of gunpowder. The other ingredients being baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).


The process is started by boiling the chosen tea leaves in water. Once it is boiling it is brewed with baking soda. At this stage some families add a dash of spices like cardamom and powdered anise seeds to make it aromatic. At this stage the liquid takes a blackish-red tinge due to the soda bicarbonate. Addition of milk and salt at the end changes the colour to the characteristic pink shade.

To make it more delicious a few rose petals can be added at the final stages before serving it. Traditionally it is made in the well-known Samovar, which emanates heat from the central column containing smouldering charcoal. It also keeps it boiling hot till it has the burning charcoal. However, these days often it is cooked in ordinary utensils

It is often described as a life-saver in winter, while also being a refreshing drink during spring and summer. It is not bitter like black tea but fragrant and luscious in texture. Though it is milky, it also has a subtle flavour. Noone Chay is a healthy drink, it helps in keeping body warm in winters, relieves stress, improves immunity and helps in weight reduction in a community which is very fond of consuming large amounts of rice and meat curries. The good thing is that Noon Chay is free of caffeine. Pregnant ladies can consume it.

The baking soda or the sodium bicarbonate which is an essential constituent of this beverage especially its colour, is an alkaline substance which is capable of neutralizing the excessive stomach acid and provide temporary relief from indigestion. Its presence in Noon Chay makes it good for digestion. In larger amounts it is harmful.

For this reason, its amount while making the tea should be calibrated and not to exceed half to one teaspoon depending upon how much water and finally milk has to be added. Higher amounts can lead to high blood pressure. It has also been incriminated in the genesis of stomach cancers due to its high methylating activities leading to exposure to potent nitrosamines which are suspected carcinogens.

People who already have high BP , should avoid it or take it sparingly. Baking soda contained in it has very low content of potassium which is a protective salt for hypertensives. It should also not be consumed by patients with swelling in the body, heart failure and complications of it like chronic kidney disease.

Noon Chay, the wonderful pink aromatic drink is a part of Kashmiri culture and ethos since 14th century brought in from Yarkand , central Asia and has a strong Persian influence . It is a healthy drink with benefits far outweighing its downside and is consumed by all Kashmiris irrespective of their religious beliefs and socio-economic status. Like all good things too much of it should not be encouraged. 

Author is Founder Director

Gauri Kaul foundation