“My Kehwa is not just a drink; it’s a sensory encounter that leaves an indelible mark.” Mushtaq Akhoon
By Tauheed Ahmad
In the heart of Dal Lake, where the serene waters of Kashmir’s jewel glisten under the sun, a modest shikara (boat) gently navigates its way through the pristine surroundings. Onboard, a warm smile accompanies the aroma of a timeless elixir, and Mushtaq Hussain Akhoon, the maestro of this nautical delight, shares a magical journey with the world. The allure of Mushtaq’s creation is irresistible, and tourists from far and wide find themselves drawn to the symphony of flavors that dance in a humble cup of Kehwa, crafted from 16 exquisite ingredients. Brewing Bliss with Kashmir’s Kehwa Master
Mushtaq Akhoon’s journey into the world of Kehwa began not with tea leaves but through a rich tapestry of Kashmiri handicrafts. However, fate had a different calling for him, leading him to embark on a voyage that would soon set him apart as the maestro of Kehwa. Mushtaq reflects on this transition, saying, “I was earlier associated with Kashmiri handicrafts, but now, it has been eight years since I sold my special Kehwa to tourists at Dal Lake.”
In a small, traditional Samovar aboard his shikara, Mushtaq combines the rich flavors of almond, walnut, cashew nut, honey, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, chai patti, and an array of secret ingredients. The Kehwa simmers to life as charcoal burns within the cylindrical Samovar, infusing the drink with warmth and a delightful aroma.
“With just a humble price of Rs 50 per cup, my Kehwa experience transcends the simple act of sipping a beverage. The preparation is an integral part of the experience, as I craft each cup right in front of my patrons, filling the surroundings with a warm embrace of fragrance,” Mushtaq explains.
He proudly share that my dedication to his craft has not gone unnoticed. Food bloggers and vloggers have shared their enchantment with Mushtaq’s Kehwa, immortalizing his artistry on their platforms. Dil Se Foodie Official, Kashmir Food Gram, Food Founder, Veggie Wander, and others have marveled at the magic in Mushtaq’s cup.
“As the winter chills descend upon Kashmir and temperatures plummet, my Kehwa becomes a comforting embrace. The blend of spices, green tea, cardamom, crushed almonds, cloves, and Kashmiri rose not only tantalizes the taste buds but also provides solace from winter’s common ailments like colds, coughs, and headaches,” says Mushtaq Akhoon with a comforting smile.
While expressing the heartfelt pride, Mushtaq says, “The Kehwa has brought me fame and admiration. My son is not only dedicated to his studies but also actively engages in water sports, and my daughters are diligent in their pursuit of education. Mushtaq takes immense pride in offering his blend of love and warmth to his customers, both local and foreign. He has not only become a household name among fellow Indians but also among international travelers, who come to Dal Lake to savor the unique amalgamation of flavors.”
“What sets my Kehwa apart is not just the extraordinary blend of sixteen ingredients but the love and dedication I pour into my work. On an average day, I serve more than a hundred cups, each priced at a meager Rs 50, a true bargain considering the richness of the ingredients. My commitment to this craft and the satisfaction of my customers set me apart as a true artisan of Kehwa”, he said.
“The visitors who taste my Kehwa carry with them lasting memories, cherishing the experience as a significant part of their journey. My Kehwa is not just a drink; it’s a sensory encounter that leaves an indelible mark,” Mushtaq Akhoon proudly shares.
Mushtaq’s journey from a background in Kashmiri arts, farming, and various other jobs to becoming the custodian of Kehwa’s legacy is a testament to the power of passion and the magic of tradition. As he continues to warm the hearts and souls of visitors on the tranquil waters of Dal Lake, Mushtaq’s legacy shines as a beacon of love, tradition, and the enduring warmth of Kehwa.
“Looking forward, I dream of enhancing the quality of my business and further expanding its reach. I also aspire to involve the local community, particularly the Dal dwellers, in the process of preserving the lake’s pristine beauty. My wish is to utilize their expertise, accumulated over the years, to restore this natural wonder. I envision not only creating a successful business but also contributing to the restoration and protection of the beautiful Dal Lake, a source of pride for the people of Kashmir. I believe that the government’s efforts to revive its pristine glory can be more effective with the involvement of the local community”, he said.
In a world sometimes marred by conflict and division, Mushtaq’s Kehwa stands as a symbol of harmony and peace. He says, “By incorporating the names of Hindustan and Pakistan into his blend, Mushtaq sends a powerful message of unity and serenity to all those who partake in his creation. His Kehwa is not just a drink but a cup of hope, a blend of love, and a touch of history”.
Mushtaq Akhoon’s journey is a remarkable testament to the potential of one individual to create beauty, foster unity, and make a lasting impact through a humble cup of Kehwa.