Windsor·Pinto on Food

Check out this pink Kashmiri-style chai from Tea House Windsor

Popular in Pakistan and India, this warm, milky tea gets its hue without the use of colouring.

Popular in Pakistan and India, the beverage gets its hue without the use of colouring

A fresh cup of pink Kashmiri chai from Tea House Windsor. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

With the youngest of her three children in school, Kanwal Tauseef was set to return to work as a graphic designer.

But a decision to sell a popular Kashmiri-style beverage to the public in July changed everything.

"I am always anxious to participate in different community events. So we thought — me and my husband — we should take part in the Eid festival; we'll have a stall and offer people pink tea," she said. "I am from Pakistan, and people like it a lot there."

Kanwal Tauseef is the owner of Tea House Windsor. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Pink tea, also known as Kashmiri chai, noon chai, sheer chai and gulabi chai, is a warm, milky beverage with a pinkish hue. Similar in preparation to the more mainstream masala chai, pink tea is made from a mixture of spices and tea leaves that is added to hot milk. 

"Whenever I drink pink tea, I think about [vacations in] Kashmir," said Tauseef, who grew up in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. "Kashmir is a hilly area, it's very beautiful. People say it's heaven on earth."

After receiving an overwhelmingly positive response to her pink tea during Eid, Tauseef started selling the beverage — along with samosas and Pakistani-style spring rolls — at various events in Windsor-Essex, such as the Downtown Windsor Farmers' Market, under the name Tea House Windsor.

In addition to tea leaves (in focus), pink tea involves (clockwise from bottom) cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, sugar and salt. A pinch of baking soda (centre) reacts in the mixture to give the liquid its signature pink colour. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

The process of making the pink chai takes a few hours. Tea leaves — specially grown in Kashmir — and spices are combined with water, boiled, and reduced by about half. A pinch of baking soda added with the spices reacts with the rest of the liquid to give the beverage its signature hue.

"We don't add any colour," Tauseef said, noting that the beverage tastes slightly different depending on where you consume it, with Kashmiris adding more salt, and people in Lahore adding more sugar. "Normally, we customize with a little bit of salt, and a little bit of sugar."

Tauseef then adds ice to bring the tea mixture (called qehwa) back to its original volume, and the liquid is added to warm milk.

After hours of boiling, the qehwa is added to warm milk. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Currently, Tea House Windsor operates as a catering company, in addition to popping up at events, such as the upcoming Windsor Women in Business Christmas Shop on November 27 at the Windsor Yacht Club.

But Tauseef has big plans for the business.

"We are moving toward [opening] a cafe or takeaway," she said, adding she's considering the area near the University of Windsor due to the number of international students. "You know, it's not possible for everybody to give an order for catering, but they want to drink a cup of tea — or two."

Tea House Windsor can be reached at (226) 348-6151, (226) 348-6152 or via Facebook.

CBC Windsor reporter Jonathan Pinto travels across southwestern Ont. in search of the tastiest food stories. Know of a place you think he should check out? Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca or tweet @jonathan_pinto.

The tea is strained before it is served. Pistachios are added as an optional garnish. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)
Tea House Windsor also sells samosas and spring rolls to munch on between sips of chai. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email jonathan.pinto@cbc.ca.

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