Sulaimani Chai: The Tea of the Malabar Coast

Sulaimani Chai - One Cup of Chai

Sulaimani Chai: More Than Just Tea

Sulaimani Chai is more than just a drink; it’s a special experience and tradition from the beautiful Malabar Coast. It’s a special kind of tea, different from the usual milky chai, full of spices and herbs that make it tangy and sweet. People love it not just for its taste but also for what it represents in social settings, especially in Kerala where it’s a sign of friendship and welcome.

This tea is not only loved where it comes from but also far away, even in some Middle Eastern countries, showing that many people enjoy its unique flavour. What makes Sulaimani Chai so appealing is how easy it is to make, yet it’s so flavourful and comforting. This introduction to Sulaimani Chai is an invitation to learn about its rich background, how to make it, and its importance in culture, promising a journey of delightful flavours and traditions.

Tracing the Aromatic Path of Sulaimani Chai

Origins and Evolution

The story behind Sulaimani Chai is as captivating as its taste, with deep roots in ancient traditions and history. It all started with a drink called ghava, enjoyed by Prophet Mohammed, which is like an early version of Sulaimani Chai. Ghava was more than just a drink; it was about healing and welcoming others. The name “Sulaimani” is derived from the Arabic name “Sulaiman,” which translates to “man of peace.”

Over time, ghava transformed, taking in flavours from different cultures and places. This change from ghava to the Sulaimani Chai we know today shows how food and drink traditions can change, blending with local tastes and what’s available. This tea isn’t just about the ingredients but also how it’s made and when it’s shared, making it a key part of local food traditions.

Arab Influence on the Malabar Coast

A key moment in Sulaimani Chai’s history was when Arab traders came to the Malabar Coast, famous for its spices. These traders weren’t just interested in spice trading; they also brought their cultural and culinary traditions, including a love for spiced, black teas. This mix of Arab and local Indian traditions gave birth to Sulaimani Chai.

The blend of Arab and Indian cultures in this tea symbolizes the warmth, hospitality, and diversity of the Malabar Coast. Sulaimani Chai is more than a beverage; it represents the rich cultural exchange and history of the region.

A Beverage of Unity and Healing

Sulaimani Chai became more than just a drink; it turned into a symbol of togetherness and healing. It’s known that the tea was used to help people make up and feel closer, making sharing a cup a sign of friendship and peace. The mix of spices in the tea doesn’t just taste good; it’s also good for digestion and helps people relax, making it a popular choice after meals or during chill moments.

The story of Sulaimani Chai is rich, filled with traditions, cultural mixing, and a sense of community. Starting from a simple drink like ghava to becoming a beloved tea, Sulaimani Chai keeps being an important part of its regions, showing the lasting impact of the people and places that have influenced its history.

The Spice Ensemble of Sulaimani Chai

Sulaimani Chai is special because it mixes simple ingredients with tradition, creating a unique flavour. Each part of the tea is important for making its famous taste. Let’s look at what goes into Sulaimani Chai and why these ingredients matter so much.

Traditional Components of Sulaimani Chai

Basic Ingredients:

  • Water: The base of any tea, it’s important to use fresh, clean water for the best flavour.
  • Black Tea Leaves: The core ingredient that forms the base flavour, usually a strong variety to withstand the addition of spices.

Spices and Flavourings:

  • Ginger: Adds a spicy, warming note.
  • Cinnamon: Introduces a sweet, woody flavour.
  • Cardamom: Contributes a unique, slightly sweet taste.
  • Star Anise: Offers a licorice-like flavour.
  • Cloves: Provide a strong, pungent taste.
  • Lemon Juice: Adds freshness and a tangy zest, balancing the sweetness.


  • Jaggery: A traditional, unrefined sugar made from sugarcane juice or palm sap, adding a rich sweetness.

The Significance of Key Ingredients

The Exclusion of Milk

Sulaimani Chai is different from most Indian teas because it doesn’t have milk. This lets the spice flavours stand out more, making the tea feel lighter and more refreshing. Without milk, the tea has a clear, golden color, making it a soothing drink for any time of day, especially in hot weather.

The Use of Jaggery Over Sugar

In Sulaimani Chai, people prefer to use jaggery, a traditional sweetener, because it has a rich taste that can be both sweet and a bit tangy. Jaggery doesn’t just make the tea taste better; it also offers health benefits like helping with digestion and providing minerals. Choosing jaggery over regular sugar shows the tea’s focus on health and natural ingredients.

The Art of Balancing Flavours

The special thing about Sulaimani Chai is how well its ingredients work together. The lemon juice’s tanginess needs to match the jaggery’s sweetness just right, and the spices should make it warm and interesting without being too much. Getting this balance right is why people love Sulaimani Chai so much—it’s refreshing and uplifting.

To sum it up, Sulaimani Chai’s ingredients are picked for both their taste and health benefits, making a drink that’s more than just a mix of its parts. Skipping milk and choosing jaggery over regular sugar make this tea stand out and show its connection to traditional, natural, and healthy ways.

Brewing Magic: The Art of Sulaimani Chai

Making the best Sulaimani Chai is like conducting a symphony of flavours. It’s more than just following a recipe; it’s about diving into the tradition and art of making tea. Here’s a detailed guide to help you craft a genuine and tasty Sulaimani Chai.

Ingredients Checklist

Before you begin, ensure you have all the necessary ingredients:

  • Water: 2 cups
  • Black Tea Leaves: 1-2 teaspoons (depending on desired strength)
  • Ginger: 1-inch piece, finely chopped or grated
  • Cinnamon: 1 small stick
  • Cardamom: 2-3 pods, crushed
  • Star Anise: 1 piece
  • Cloves: 2-3
  • Jaggery: 1-2 tablespoons, grated (adjust to taste)
  • Lemon Juice: 1-2 teaspoons (adjust to taste)

Step-by-Step Brewing Guide

1. Water Preparation

Start by boiling 2 cups of water in a saucepan. The quality of water can significantly affect the taste of the tea, so use filtered water if possible.

2. Adding Spices

Once the water comes to a boil, add the ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and cloves. Allow the water to simmer for 3-5 minutes on low heat. This slow simmering process helps to extract the flavours and aromatic oils from the spices, infusing the water with their essence.

3. Infusing Tea Leaves

Add the black tea leaves to the spiced water and let them steep for about 3-5 minutes on low heat. The brewing time can be adjusted according to how strong you prefer your tea. A longer steeping time will result in a stronger tea.

4. Sweetening with Jaggery

After the tea has steeped, add the grated jaggery to the saucepan. Stir until the jaggery is completely dissolved. The use of jaggery not only sweetens the tea but also adds a rich, caramel-like flavour that complements the spices.

5. Adding Lemon Juice

Turn off the heat and add lemon juice to the tea. The lemon juice is a critical ingredient that balances the sweetness of the jaggery and the boldness of the spices with its bright acidity, enhancing the tea’s distinctiveness.

6. Straining and Serving

Strain the tea into cups, ensuring that all the spices and tea leaves are removed. Sulaimani Chai is best enjoyed hot, allowing the warmth and the flavours to soothe and refresh you.

Tips for the Perfect Cup

  • Adjust Spices to Taste: Feel free to adjust the quantity of spices based on your personal preference. Sulaimani Chai is versatile, and experimenting with the spice mix can lead to your perfect blend.
  • Mind the Brewing Time: Over-brewing the tea can result in a bitter taste, so keep an eye on the clock when steeping the tea leaves.
  • Freshness Matters: Using fresh spices and freshly squeezed lemon juice can significantly enhance the flavour profile of your Sulaimani Chai.

If you follow these steps carefully, you can make a soothing and aromatic Sulaimani Chai that honors its deep cultural roots. Enjoy both the brewing process and the wonderful experience of drinking this traditional tea.

Sulaimani Chai - One Cup of Chai
Sulaimani Chai - One Cup of Chai
Sulaimani Chai - One Cup of Chai

Local and Regional Variations of Sulaimani Chai

Sulaimani Chai, deeply intertwined with the culture of many areas, shows an interesting mix of local and regional twists. Each version mirrors the unique preferences, traditions, and histories of its people, making Sulaimani Chai a diverse and cherished drink. Here’s a look at the various types of Sulaimani Chai from different places, focusing on what makes each one special and their cultural importance.

Kerala’s Sulaimani Chai

In Kerala, Sulaimani Chai is a big part of social life. It’s commonly served at get-togethers, after meals, and to welcome guests. Its light and refreshing taste makes it popular with both locals and visitors.

  • Base: Black tea with a clear, golden hue.
  • Flavourings: Often infused with lemon or lime to add a refreshing zest.
  • Spices: Clove, cardamom, and cinnamon are commonly used, offering a warm, aromatic flavour.
  • Sweetener: Jaggery is preferred for its rich sweetness and health benefits.

Hyderabad’s Sulaimani Chai

Hyderabad’s version of Sulaimani Chai shows its historical ties to Persian and Arab cultures, thanks to traders and migrants over the years. In Hyderabad, this tea is a sign of hospitality and is commonly offered in cafes and restaurants as a way to help digest a big meal.

  • Base: Similar to Kerala’s version, focusing on black tea.
  • Flavourings: Lemon or lime is added for a tangy twist.
  • Spices: May include cardamom and cinnamon, but usually lighter on spices compared to Kerala’s version.
  • Sweetener: Jaggery or sometimes honey for a different kind of sweetness.

Dubai’s Sulaimani Chai

Dubai’s Sulaimani Chai honors its Arab heritage, where tea is crucial in hospitality and socializing. It showcases the cultural mix between the Middle East and South Asia, merging the straightforwardness of Arab tea customs with the nuanced flavours of Indian chai spices.

  • Base: Black tea, clear and strong.
  • Flavourings: Lemon is a key ingredient, adding a citrusy freshness.
  • Spices: Minimal use of spices, focusing on the tea’s robust flavour.
  • Sweetener: Often sweetened with honey or jaggery.

Elaichi Chai

Elaichi Chai is a flavourful tea made with the sweet aroma of cardamom. It blends black tea with crushed cardamom pods to create a sweet and spicy drink that warms you up and lifts your mood.

  • Description: Predominantly flavoured with crushed cardamom pods, offering a sweet and aromatic taste.
  • Variations: Can be made with or without milk, and sometimes includes other spices like ginger or cinnamon.
  • Popularity: Enjoyed across various regions in India for its comforting and heartwarming qualities.

Kashmiri Noon Chai

Kashmiri Noon Chai, also known as Pink Tea, is a traditional beverage with a unique twist. Made with green tea, milk, baking soda, and a dash of salt, it’s renowned for its distinctive pink color and creamy, slightly salty taste.

  • Description: A unique pink-colored tea made with green tea leaves, milk, baking soda, and a hint of salt.
  • Specialty: Known for its creamy texture, distinctive color, and rich flavour profile.
  • Cultural Significance: An integral part of Kashmiri cuisine, often served during breakfast or special occasions.

This comparison highlights the variety in chai culture, with Sulaimani Chai notable for its unique taste and cultural importance. Every version of Sulaimani Chai, from Kerala to Dubai, shares a tale of cultural blending, local tastes, and shared traditions. This makes Sulaimani Chai an intriguing topic for those who love tea and are interested in different cultures.

Sulaimani Chai: A Cup of Unity and Tradition

Sulaimani Chai is more than just a tasty drink; it’s part of a rich cultural tradition that brings people together, showing friendship and hospitality. It’s especially popular in Kerala, where sharing this tea means sharing warmth and unity.

Unity and Friendship
In places where Sulaimani Chai is loved, like Kerala, it’s not just about the great taste. It’s about the feeling of togetherness it brings. Enjoying this tea with others is a friendly gesture that helps people connect and bond.

Hospitality and Socializing

  • Welcoming Guests: Offering Sulaimani Chai to guests is a common way to make them feel welcomed and comfortable.
  • Community Events: This tea is often part of social events, helping to create a sense of community and belonging.
  • Generosity: Serving Sulaimani Chai shows care and generosity, making guests feel looked after.

Operation Sulaimani: Helping Others
Operation Sulaimani is a creative program named after the tea, aimed at making sure no one in Kozhikode, Kerala, goes hungry.

  • How It Works: People in need get food coupons that they can exchange for a meal and Sulaimani Chai at certain restaurants.
  • Team Effort: The program is successful thanks to the collaboration between the government, restaurant owners, and volunteers, showing the power of community support.
  • Making a Difference: Using Sulaimani Chai as a symbol, this initiative has gained a lot of support, showing how the tea can help promote community welfare.

Cultural Significance
Sulaimani Chai is a key part of the culture where it’s popular, symbolizing hospitality, shared joy, and community support. Through everyday traditions and programs like Operation Sulaimani, this tea strengthens the bonds of unity and friendship, adding to the cultural richness of the community.

Embark on Your Sulaimani Chai Journey

Sulaimani Chai isn’t just a drink; it’s a rich blend of cultural values and social importance, bringing people together with every sip. We’ve explored its history, how to make it, and its many local flavours, seeing its power to unite and welcome.

The True Meaning of Sulaimani Chai

Sulaimani Chai goes beyond being just a tea. It symbolizes togetherness, friendship, and kindness. Whether in Kerala’s gatherings, Hyderabad’s lively lanes, or Dubai’s diverse scenes, this tea connects people, sparking conversations and laughter.

More Than Just a Drink

Sulaimani Chai invites us to celebrate diversity and the cultural richness it stands for. From Kerala’s spice-infused brew to Hyderabad’s fragrant mix and Dubai’s unique twist, these variations show how versatile and loved Sulaimani Chai is.

An Invitation to Explore

Diving into the world of Sulaimani Chai is an adventure. It’s a chance to play with flavours, immerse in traditions, and find your personal connection to this ancient practice. Whether you’re a tea lover or just curious, Sulaimani Chai offers endless opportunities for discovery and delight.

Craft Your Own Tradition

We encourage you to bring these stories and recipes into your kitchen. Experiment, adjust the flavours, and maybe create your own Sulaimani Chai to share.

Sulaimani Chai is more than tea; it’s a cultural voyage, a sign of hospitality, and a celebration of the shared tradition of enjoying tea together. So, brew your Sulaimani Chai, and let each sip link you to the vast cultural stories and connections that make this tea so unique.

Sulaimani Chai FAQ

What is Sulaimani Chai?

Sulaimani chai is a type of spiced black tea that originated in the Arab world and became popular in the Malabar region of India. It is brewed with a blend of spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger, and is served without milk, often with a twist of lemon. 

What is the origin of Sulaimani Chai?

According to folklore, Sulaimani chai is believed to have Arab origins. It is said that Prophet Muhammad used to enjoy drinking a beverage called ‘ghava’ made with dates and black pepper, but without tea. Over time, the Arabs modified the recipe, and the drink was later brought to the Malabar coast of India by Arab traders. The local spices were then added, and tea was incorporated into the blend, leading to the creation of Sulaimani chai. 

What are the health benefits of Sulaimani Chai?

Sulaimani chai, with its moderate caffeine levels and citrusy notes, is known to have several health benefits. It can aid digestion, help reduce cholesterol levels, and has anti-aging properties. The robust and spicy brew can also improve blood flow, prevent clots, and provide an energy boost. 

How do you brew Sulaimani Chai?

To brew Sulaimani chai, you’ll need to steep black tea leaves with a blend of spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger. The tea is then sweetened with sugar or jaggery and finished off with a squeeze of lemon juice. The exact brewing process can vary, but the key is to let the spices infuse the tea for a few minutes before straining and serving. 

Why is it called Sulaimani Chai?

The name “Sulaimani” is derived from the Arabic name “Sulaiman,” which translates to “man of peace.” This is a reference to the belief that Prophet Muhammad enjoyed drinking a similar beverage called “ghava.” The drink was later brought to the Malabar region of India by Arab traders, where it was adapted and renamed Sulaimani chai. 

Further Reading

  1. “Ramadan Special: The Lesser-Known History of Sulaimani Chai”, Times of India. Available at:
  2. “How to Make the Perfect Sulaimani Tea: A Guide to Brewing the Best Sulaimani Chai”, Times of India. Available at:
  3. “Sulaimani Tea: The Story of the Arab World’s Favourite Beverage That Kerala Made Its Own”, The Better India. Available at:
  4. “How Chai is Made in Different Regions Around the World”, World Tea News. Available at:
  5. “The Journey of Sulaimani Tea from Kerala’s Malabar Coast to the UAE”, Gulf News. Available at:
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