Simple pleasures

Kashmiri pink noon tea

Gunpowder tea’s in the pot.

A miserable bag, a teaspoon of sweepings from the floor and a whole nation relaxes as the National grid switches to auxiliary power during the ad. breaks in Corrie.
But the drink that quenched an Empire’s thirst and caused quite a lot of trouble has rather a lot more than just one variety.

Tea has come to symbolise a particular type of relaxation, it’s probably the closest the English get to a spiritual meditative moment and as a panacea it is unbeatable. Everything can be cured or solved with a “nice cup of tea”.

Unless you’re on holiday in France of course. Better off sticking to coffee — or bring your own with you.

My own tea collection is ever expanding. The everyday Twinings Darjeeling or Ceylon I enjoy mid-afternoon is kept in the cupboard at the front. But delve a little deeper, and even in to the tea drawer (yes, I have a dedicated drawer now) below and you will find a cache of tea for any occasion. There are so many exciting types to try, some delicate, some perfumed, some strong and muscular and some that taste like you’ve spilt the kettle into the ashtray. Take your pick.

I have always taken my tea black in the strong belief that milk is for baby cows. I really don’t get on well with it unless it’s in the form of cheese or ice cream, and then, well, those calves can go thirsty.

But with this tea, milk of some kind is essential. It rounds everything out, softens it, gives it a comforting velvetiness. I use almond milk, it accentuates the nuttiness from the ground pistachios and has the creamy texture you need.

And the tea itself? Well the pink is dramatic. That comes from the addition of bicarbonate of soda to the water. The colour is fantastic, and the green nuts and pink rose petals give an elegant delicacy.

The flavours and colours transport me to an exotic world, where spice meets desert and mountain and the little extra effort involved in this drink is worth that alone. But it’s also delicious and the colours really cheer you up at a London lunchtime. The noon, however, means salt in Kashmiri and I’ve tried it with some as it should be and with sugar as an alternative. They both have their positives, but the way I prefer it is with neither. Just a lot of cardamom and certainly as close to 12 o’clock as possible.

You can get gunpowder tea easily online (try this brand for a basic type). I tend to top up when I go to Tooting and the Indian shops that line the high road.

Ingredients
4tbsp Kashmiri tea or ‘gunpowder’ tea
450ml of boiling water plus 200ml of cold
1tbsp cardamom seeds, briefly crushed in a pestle and mortar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 star anise
4 cloves
A pinch of salt, sugar or honey if you like
A handful of pistachios, ground in a pestle and mortar. You can also use almonds
A few rose buds to decorate
Almond milk to serve. (I use Plenish — which admittedly sounds like a dishwasher tablet — as it has a high nut content and no added sugar or unnecessary rubbish.)

Method
Bring the tea to the boil in 450ml water with the cardamom, star anise, cloves, bicarbonate of soda and salt (if using) and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
Pour in the remaining cold water, stir well and bring back to the boil. Simmer gently for a further minute or two. Strain into a jug. You can keep this in the fridge for a few days, which saves you the bother of making it like this every day.
Heat as much milk as you need to fill each cup 3/4 full, pour in the prepared tea until you have a vivid pink then serve hot with a sprinkle of nuts and flowers.

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