I simply looked at Shri Dr.N.K.Bahl and did not utter a single word-the moment he mentioned about Kahwa in Pakistan. I immediately counter-questioned him, “Kahwa in Pakistan?”. He nodded and stared at me as though I doubted his knowledge about teas. As usual, I asked him to share his memories about it (he was narrating his experiences about the travel from Rawalpindi to India during the partition times). I love to know more about the partition and displacement memories from various individuals.
I noted them and learnt a lot about different topics. According to him, Pakistani Kahwa tea is called SAAVI KA CHAI( which means Tea prepared from Saavi leaves-special kind of tea leaves). These leaves were not available in any of the grocery or retail stores. I even tried at the whole sale markets of Khari Baoli, Chandni Chowk(an area situated at Old Delhi). Dr.Bahl promised to get me the tea leaves.
Later on, he explained the process of brewing the tea leaves. According to him, it was called “The Hot and Wet Preparation Of Tea”. I was curious to know more about it. He narrated that his mother used to prepare for the entire family (he belonged to the joint family). The tea possesses some medicinal values and given to the entire family without any kind of restrictions. It seems that it is a unique kind of tea. The small children and senior members of the family consumed it regularly in the severe cold of the winter. It helped in fighting against the cold and keep warm in the cold season. Secondly, the consumption of it saved one from bronchial infections and allergies. Thirdly, it has the medicinal values to prevent mucus formation and dry coughs. Lastly, it remains to be the best beverage in their family.
He continued his story and added,” My mother prepared the best tea and each one of the family member requested her to make the tea whenever there was an occasion or family gatherings in the evening hours of a day. She used to spend atleast 15 minutes to brew the leaves and get the final end product of the beverage. She used to take two spoons of teas leaves in a container. In another bowl; she added two cups of water and allowed the water to boil for few minutes.. The moment the water boiled in the bowl, she added the tea leaves and allowed to them to brew for some more time. After allowing the water and tea leaves to give the desired flavor and color of dark brown, she used to add some water to it. Allow it to brew for some more time. Now finally she added one more cup of cold water and brew for another 5 minutes or so. This was called the HOT and WET preparation of tea. As the tea was being brewed again and again; she added the powdered small green and black cardamoms to the tea. This was used to enhance the flavor of the cardamoms in it. No milk was added into it. It was the green tea called Kahwa. This was special tea prepared in the Rawalpindi regions of Pakistan.”
After two weeks, I received the call from Dr.Bahl. He shared the information that he got the tea leaves for me from Dehradun, Uttar Pradesh. To my astonishment, I discovered that Saavi tea leaves were available only in few places of India. Nevertheless, I prepared the tea in the same manner as instructed by Dr.Bahl. Since I like green tea and give importance to the traditional preparations, I admired the tea color and stared at it for a long time.
Tea… partition times… memories of the family moving from Rawalpindi to Dehradun and sharing the information with me… all was rolled together for this cup of tea for me. Before I could sip it, I thanked to myself and felt lucky to drink Kahwa prepared from Pakistani Tea leaves called Saavi. Hail to all members of the Bahl family. This is the living story of SAAVI KI CHAI.
This is the story of tea which was present in Hindustan before partition. In September 1946, it travelled from Rawalpindi to Amritsar. Soon it was rooted in the REFUGEES COLONY in Dehradun. Now one may find the tea store in Dehradun selling the SAAVI tea leaves. I wonder how tea leaves are reaching to Dehradun from Pakistan. Nevertheless individuals like Dr.Bahl and his family members relish the tea and attached to it are the memories of their leisure and gatherings in the courtyard of their homes in Pakistan. Lost are the individuals… lost are their homes and businesses… lost is their land and property… yet one thing still remains in their memories and it is SAAVI KI CHAI.