Noon Chai or Sheer Chai—a pink-coloured salted tea with a mixture of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) has been the traditional beverage of Kashmiris for centuries.
People in Kashmir are known to be connoisseurs of making Noon Chai and usually consume it in the morning and the afternoon with Tchwoer or Girda (Oven-baked bread).
What makes the tea pink? While preparing the tea, it develops a maroon hue through oxidation and aeration by mixing a certain amount of sodium bicarbonate.
However, the origins of Noon Chai is not confirmed as to whether the tea is Kashmir originated or not. However, for centuries, the consumption of Noon Chai in the morning has remained a tradition for the locals.
The tea is served in a flask or in a traditional Samovar—a copper brass utensil that keeps it warm by burning coal inside the chimney inside the Samovar.
The locals believe that in earlier times, the guests would often be offered Noon Chai and it was consumed. However, this trend has changed in the past two decades. The introduction of English tea or sugar tea (locally known as Lipton chai) has somewhat taken over Noon Chai.
The consumption of Noon Chai has not remained confined to Kashmir only but in different states of India also, Kashmir’s traditional beverage is sold at restaurants and tea stalls.
In Delhi, the Noon Chai stalls open early in the morning outside the Jamia Masjid after the Mouzim calls for the Fajr prayer.
Not only in Delhi, but Noon Chai is also sold in various areas of Lucknow, Chandigarh and Jammu as well to Kashmiris who work or travel to these places.