Tea Culture and Tea Traditions of Pakistan

PAKISTAN

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Tea History of Pakistan
The region where Pakistan is situated today has evidence of tea leaves being brewed and drunk as far back as 750 BC. Commercial cultivation and day-to-day use was started after the 1830s under the British.
The word “chai” which means tea in Urdu is used in Pakistan, and a variation of it is used in many other countries of the world. Green tea has been a tradition for thousands of years in Pakistan. It was the black tea which was introduced and marketed by the British. Until 1971 East Pakistan grew their own tea. The region is now known as Bangladesh. Pakistan is one of the largest tea importers at 12,804 tons in 2017.
Pakistani is also home to the “chaiwalas” who sell tea in small glasses and carrying a kettle full of tea.
Types of Tea consumed in Pakistan
In Pakistan tea has their own flavor grown in different areas of the country. Even imported tea is made in a certain distinct way in each of the cities. Chai is generally made with black tea, and almost always drunk with milk added.
People in Karachi prefer their black tea with milk as well as the same with added spices. This spiced tea is very popular and is known as “masala chai” all around the world. A very thick milk tea is known as “Doodh Pati chai”. It is very much popular in the Punjab area. In Kashmir the common tea is a green tea known as “kahwah”.
Specialty twas are also drunk in some areas. For example Kashmiris have a version of “Kashmiri chai” also known as “noon chai” where they add cardamom and pistachios to the tea. This tea is pink in colour and mainly drunk during special occasions such as parties, weddings and also during the colder months. Further up north, in Gilgit, Baltistan and Chitral regions, they are most fond of activity and styled tea which has a buttered salty taste.
There are many tea cafes and tea houses in the country. There is a saying that if you share a tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The next time you do it, you become an honourable guest. The third time converts you to their own family!
Tea Customs of Pakistan
Pakistani tea is a symbol of hospitality as well as a part of day-to-day life. They start the day with a Pakistani masala or cardamom tea. It is drunk throughout the day. A tea is a must with breakfast, and guests are offered tea, during any time of the day. Major cities such as Lahore has a fascinating tea culture. Even though the evening tea time is observed in Pakistan, it is nothing new for them to have tea during breaks or at any time of the day.
Tea is offered with biscuits or cookies. In the Khyber/ Kashmiri area in northern Pakistan, locals enjoy the green tea known as “qawah” or “kahwah”. This tea is a must at any celebration.
Tea is an unspoken agreement and a must in any gathering. If you are meeting someone or having a party, it will most probably have tea. Following the tea customs in Pakistan is very important. You must never turn down an invitation for tea. Accept the cup of tea and try to at least take a few sips, even if you don’t prefer tea. If you are up for another cup, wait until the host refills the cup. You're not expected to fill your own cup. Whenever the cup or the glass is less than half full the host will do it themselves.
Pakistanis enjoy biscuits or cookies with their day-to-day tea. During special events they will make “Gajar ka Halva” a sweet item made with milk and flour, cake rusks, Sheermal, Yazdi cakes and more. Savouries such as pakoray and samosa are also very popular.
Tea ceremonies in Pakistan
A tea plant is featured in the Pakistan State emblem. That shows the importance of tea in Pakistan.
Evening tea is something the Pakistanis treasure. Friends or family will get together and enjoy an evening of delicious milk tea, together with sweet items such as cakes, biscuits or savories like “aloo” (potato) samosas. Tea breaks are a common occurrence at work and the tea drunk by the laborers is generally very strong with a lot of sugar.
Their high tea is fashioned after the British. It is normally experienced at star-class hotels and high-end restaurants. They offer a buffet style menu and tea of several varieties.
Pakistanis use loose leaf tea and very rarely resort to tea bags. Sugar is offered separately, except in small tea shops where you get a tea with milk and sugar included.
The kahwah tea is prepared with green tea leaves, boiled together with cinnamon, saffron or cardamom. Kashmiri roses are added for an enticing aroma, though not always. The kahwah is offered with sugar or alternatively, honey. One type of nuts also accompanies it, generally walnuts or almonds. This is served during celebrations or to guests. Saffron is added only for special guests; milk is added only when it is served to the sick or the elderly.
Tea is a part of iftar, meal taken to break the Ramadan fast.
Teaware of Pakistan
Tea cups in Pakistan are the usual British inspired teacups with saucers. Contrary to this practice, the tea shops and the “chaiwaalas” sell tea in small, transparent glasses. These glasses are common to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their size allows the drinker to hold it between the index finger and thumb. It is so held to avoid having one’s fingers burnt as well.
Tea cups and saucers are made of porcelain, and so are most mugs. Kettles are made of metal, mostly copper; if you visit a tea shop in a street corner, you can see the blackened kettles from being kept on the stove top for years and years.
Northern Pakistanis prepare their special tea Kahwah in a samovar. It is a brass kettle, with a hollow metal pipe running in the middle. This pipe is designed to contain hot coal. It is a strategy to have the kettle kept continually hot. Tea leaves and water are boiled in the space around it, and for kahwah, cardamom, saffron or cinnamon also will be added to that space. The tea is served in small, shallow cups.
In the modern Pakistan, samovars are not used as frequently as they were in the past. With time and cost limitations, Pakistanis have now adapted to pans or tea pots to brew their chai.