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Roohi's Zafran Kahwa (Kashmiri Saffron Tea)

Recipe by: Roohi Nazki, the legend behind Chai Jaai in Srinagar

Makes: 1 to 2 cups

Roohi's Zafran Kahwa (Kashmiri Saffron Tea)
Photo by:  

Andria Lo

Kahwa—also known as kehwa, and referred to as the "drink of the soul"—is a Kashmiri saffron tea lightly flavored with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and almonds. At Chai Jaai, one of Srinagar's best cafes, Roohi Nazki prepares it in a Samovar (a tradtional tea kettle used in Kashmir), but you can easily prepare it at home in a saucepan at home. Best enjoyed piping hot!

Cook's note: To blanch almonds, place them in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain, slip skins off the almonds, composting the skins and saving the blanched almonds.

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  1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat.
  2. Place the saffron in a 2-cup glass measuring cup or medium bowl, cover with 2 tablespoons boiling water and let steep while you make the kahwa base.
  3. Add the roughly chopped almonds, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium and keep at a gentle boil until the spices have infused into the water and the mixture has reduced by a quarter, about 7 to 8 minutes.
  4. Strain the base into the steeped saffron, discarding the almonds and whole spices. Return the tea back to the saucepan, place over medium heat and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for 3 minutes, then add the green tea bag and desired amount of sweetener, and continue to simmer for another 30 to 45 seconds. (You're not looking for this to taste like green tea, you just want a hint of sharp tannins to balance the fragrant saffron and sweetener.) Remove and discard the tea bag and turn off the heat.
  5. To serve, place the finely chopped almonds and 1 or 2 more saffron threads in the bottom of a mug or tea cup. Pour the hot kahwa over and enjoy piping hot!

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