Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is one of the most prevalent cancer in Jammu and Kashmir region of India and has multi-factorial etiology involving dietary habits, genetic factors, and gene environmental interactions. Inactivation of the p16 gene expression by aberrant promoter methylation plays an important role in the progression of esophageal carcinoma. In the present investigation, we have studied the role of p16 promoter methylation in 69 histopathologically confirmed ESCC tissues and compared it with corresponding normal adjacent tissues for DNA methylation in the CpG island in the p16 promoter region by methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (MSP) and p16 protein expression by immunoblotting. The results showed loss of p16 expression in 67% (46/69) of tumor tissues compared to only 3% in control tissues (2/69). Promoter methylation was observed in 52% (36/69) of tumor tissues and it gradually increased with the increasing severity of histological grades of the cancer (P = 0.0001). Loss of p16 expression with promoter methylation was observed in 26 of 36 cases (72%). Analysis of patients dietary habits revealed a strong association between promoter methylation and high consumption of hot salted tea (P < 0.05) which is a most favourite drink commonly consumed by Kashmiri people.