Lok Virsa documents ancient tradition of qehwa khana

Posted on Posted in Festivals

ISLAMABAD: Lok Virsa (National Institute of Folk & Traditional Heritage) on Tuesday created a three-dimensional cultural display on Qehwa Khana at the Pakistan National Museum of Ethnology of the federal capital. The diorama portrays the ancient tradition of green tea house in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Talking on the occasion, Lok Virsa Executive Director Khalid Javaid, who has been instrumental in creating the first state museum of living traditions in Pakistan, said, “Qehwa khana is a combination of two Persian words, Qehwa (meaning green tea) and khana (a place or a house).

“Since centuries, many tribes migrating from Central Asia have settled in Afghanistan and Khyber Pakthunkhwa province of Pakistan. They have their own culture and traditions, among which use of meat along with fats is very common in their diet. So in order to digest food, they take green tea.”

Khalid Javaid maintained that qehwa khanas have become a part of culture of Peshawar. In olden days, merchants and traders coming from Central Asia and China who brought with them silk and spices would gather in these qehwa khanas in Peshawar and narrate stories about their journeys while hot and aromatic qehwa was served to wash down the greasy food. “The ground level of a qehwa khana is meant for males while the upper portion, locally called bala khana is built for females,” Khalid explained. Even today, he said, there was a market in Qissa Khawani Bazaar (bazaar of story tellers) in Peshawar, which has many teahouses.

Qehwa is traditionally drunk in small cups or tea glasses. The tea is made by boiling green tealeaves mixed with crushed cardamom. Generally, it is served with sugar or honey. Traditionally, qehwa is prepared in a brass kettle, known as a samovar. A samovar is a heated metal container traditionally used to heat and boil water. Samovar is said to have been invented in Central Asia; however, the utensil is also used in Eastern Europe, Middle East and South Asia.

A traditional samovar consists of a large metal container with a faucet at the bottom and a metal pipe running vertically through the middle. Samovars are typically crafted out of copper, brass, bronze, silver, gold, tin or nickel. It has a fire-container, in which live coals are placed for keeping the water hot. Around the fire-container there is a space for water to boil and the tealeaves and other ingredients are mixed in water for a perfect blend.

Qehwa may also be made in normal vessels. The outer portion of a qehwa khana is decorated with big samovars, carved woodwork for giving it a traditional touch, hence attracting customers. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, qehwa is usually served to guests in small cups. People here are very fond of drinking green tea, especially, after lunches and dinners, Khalid added.

Rabia, an International Islamic University student, highly lauded the efforts of Lok Virsa for making the younger generation aware of the indigenous folk culture and traditions of the country. She said, “Otherwise it is difficult for us to go and see each and every corner of Pakistan which has a great beauty.”