It’s not every day that I come across a Tajik teahouse. Actually, I never do. So when I passed by this eye-catching establishment just a couple of blocks from the pedestrian Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder, Colorado, I couldn’t resist.
In 1987, the then-mayor of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, visited his home’s sister city in Colorado and announced plans to create a teahouse in Boulder to commemorate the relationship. For three years, more than 40 Tajik artisans built the teahouse in their country without a single power tool. Then they disassembled it and shipped the pieces in 200 crates to Colorado. Political and financial problems here delayed its erection until the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse finally opened in 1998.
Ideally situated across the street from Central Park and Boulder Creek, the entry to the teahouse is flanked by black wrought-iron benches, trellises, rose gardens, and outdoor dining patios. Lured along this path, I admired the vibrant blues of the façade’s eight ceramic tile panels that depict the tree of life.
As soon as I crossed the threshold, I entered another — and decidedly non-Coloradan — world. A dozen cedar columns, each one carved with a different and exquisitely detailed design, support the carved ceiling, covered in intricate patterns hand-painted in vibrant colors. Seven copper sculptures representing “the Seven Beauties” — princesses described in a work by a 12th-century Persian poet — surround a central pool. Oil paintings, traditional handmade Tajik furniture, and eight carved white plaster panels seem to glow from the light streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
With all this visual stimulation, I almost forgot the main reason I was here: lunch. The menu is as beguiling as the teahouse itself, and making a decision turned out to be a rather time-consuming effort. Quite a few Tajik dishes competed for my attention, along with a variety of Asian, African, and other international offerings, each of which sounded more delectable than the one before it. To complicate matters, more than 100 different types of tea are available. No matter which choice you make, however, you’re guaranteed to be treated to one of the most unusual and memorable meals in the Centennial State.
Try This: You can’t go wrong with the scrumptious Tajikistan plov — a wonderful combination of beef, rice, carrots, chickpeas, sweet cabbage, apricots, cranberries, and a slew of spices — or the merguez sandwich, made with ground lamb, tomatoes, harissa, and leeks, served with a Moroccan orange and black olive salad. Pair your dish with a pot of tea, and if you’re having trouble selecting the right one to complement your meal, ask your server for assistance. He or she may recommend a pomegranate quince green tea, perhaps, or a soothing cinnamon plum tea.