One would not normally expect to find a Teahouse from Tajikstan in Colorado, USA, near the world famous ski areas of Aspen and Vail. Yet you will, if you travel to the city of Boulder, about an hour’s drive from Denver International Airport. To celebrate the establishment of sister city ties, the mayor of Dushanbe, Tajikstan (Maksud Ikramov), announced in 1987 that his city would be presenting a Teahouse to Boulder.
Over the next few years, Tajik artisans and master craftsmen produced the decorative elements that adorn the magnificent Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. These include the hand carved and hand painted ceiling, twelve intricately carved Siberian-cedar columns, and eight exterior ceramic panels, all completed using 2,000 year old techniques and traditions. Lado Shanidze traveled to Boulder to act as chief archtect during the construction. In the center of the teahouse is another gift of seven hammered-copper sculptures displayed in a fountain that commemorates a 12th century poem entitled, “The Seven Beauties.”
The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse offers a full menu, including vegetarian options, that changes seasonally. My interest was the English style afternoon tea.
For a brief moment, I didn’t think I would be able to visit the Teahouse on this trip, as the airport in Denver was covered in thick fog, with only the minimum 1/4 mile visibility available for landing a commercial jetliner. The sky cleared up nicely, though, as I drove over to Boulder near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Afternoon tea begins at 3:00 PM, so after arriving a little early, the friendly staff allowed me to be seated early, order some tea, and enjoy the room until the kitchen prepared for the afternoon tea service. The tea menu here is extensive and about an inch thick, but I usually like to order the local special blend which was the house black tea, “…our premium blend of Keemun, Assam, and Yunnan full leaf teas, has a clear, crisp, bright cup…” It was brought to my table with a three minute hourglass timer, so I could remove the infuser at just the right moment, and it was excellent.
From my corner table with a view across the entire teahouse, I could see that there is probably nothing quite like this anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. It is unique and a definite feast for the eyes. The hand carved and hand painted ceiling draws your attention as does the beautiful central fountain featuring the seven princesses. The atmosphere is very friendly, relaxed and laid back. There are no “airs” being put on here – just people inside (and outdoors) having friendly conversations over a pot of tea.
Boulder, Colorado, USA is a university town and the clientele reflects this. There are foreign exchange students, adult couples (some sitting at the “tea bar” having a scone with some exotic tea), and other groups of people enjoying a pot of tea in the sunny outdoor area. The residents here prefer to live an active, healthy and outdoor lifestyle.
Around this time, I received an unexpected appetizer of homemade hummus sprinkled with paprika, pita bread, pickled red onions, slices of cucumber and tomato, and olives. My server was an admirer of this in-house specialty and later enthusiastically asked how I liked it. It was exceptionally light and smooth and quite good.
Soon after, the three tier tray arrived and my server identified the three tiers as savoury (lower), salty (mid), and sweet (upper). The condiments were home made Devonshire cream, strawberry jam and lemon curd.
Starting with the savouries, the lemon scone (on the right) was light, crusty and delicious but, then again, I’m very partial to scones. The other unique savoury (on the left) was an artichoke and spinach purse - nicely balanced flavors and also quite good.
On the salty mid-level tier was a roasted pepper coulis, a tomato and cucumber napoleon with pickled onion garnish, and crustless cucumber sandwiches on white bread.
Finally, the upper tier of sweets included a chocolate gnoche, a coconut gnoche, chocolate mousse and a berry custard – all very light and a great way to conclude the afternoon.
As the afternoon neared an end, it was time to finish my laid back and relaxed English style afternoon tea in what seemed like a 2,000 year old Central Asian teahouse. It was a beautiful place to see, full of interesting art everywhere you looked, from the twelve carved cedar columns to the ornate and colorful ceiling to the fountain of the Seven Beauties. Many teahouses have beautiful settings, but this one has tremendous eye appeal. You are never bored.
A Central Asian Tajik Teahouse in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains may seem like an anomaly, but I can assure you it isn’t. It seems just “right” in its beautiful surroundings near Boulder Creek and the mountain foothills. Here you will find a great gift from the people of Tajikstan that locals and visitors have come to appreciate and enjoy.