“A little bit of Mohabbat should be added to every cup of Sulaimani you serve.”
I grew up watching many films and reading a lot of books. And I have been intrigued by different cultures that I encountered while devouring all these films and books. A year ago, I visited Kozhikode for the Kerala Literature Festival and stayed at my friend’s place for a few days. Her mother served us steaming hot dum biriyani and a cup of Sulaimani tea towards the end of the heavy meal. It was my first time having it, even though I had heard a lot about it. Sulaimani is an ambrosial tea made without adding milk and served with an energetic dosage of lemon, brewed to a gorgeous colour of amber.
I have only had milk tea, and I was entirely new to this taste. I always go behind stories of anything new that I consume. Given that food plays a prominent role in cultures and identities, I was eager to know the story behind this beautiful tea. I did a little research, but I somehow wanted to hear it from the people who consume it daily. So, I went to my friend’s mother and asked her about how Sulaimani reached the Malabar region. The folklore traces back to the time of the Prophet Mohammed, who enjoyed drinking what was called ghava, made out of dates and black pepper but not tea.
Arabs inherited the tradition of drinking ghava, but slightly changed the ancient recipe. Arab traders often visited the Malabar region and thus led to cultural intermingling. As the recipe reached Malabar, more spices were added, and dates were replaced with sugar. Somewhere along the line, tea was added. Sulaimani is derived from the word Sulaiman, meaning man of peace. Sulaimani tea is the perfect marriage between black tea and lemon. The colour of the tea transforms from a dark red to sun-kissed golden when the lime juice meets the tea. Maybe that is the reason why there is a splash of love in every cup you serve.