When people visit Boulder, there are a few places they should experience without question — a hike through one of Chautauqua’s many trails, the view from Flagstaff Mountain, a stroll down Pearl Street.
The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is on that list.
Its story is well known around town, each piece of the building carefully hand-crafted by artisans in Tajikistan — one of Boulder’s sister cities — then reassembled in Boulder in the early ’90s.
Like any traditional teahouse in Central Asia, Dushanbe is decorated with Persian art. Nature is the central theme, namely the sun, stars and flowers, all depicted through intricate repeated patterns carved into pillars and painted on the ceilings in subdued greens, yellows, blues and reds.
A pool in the center of the teahouse features seven copper sculptures based on a 12th century poem called “The Seven Beauties.” In the tale, seven princesses from different nations narrate their own parable that ultimately communicates important cultural values, much like the teahouse itself serves as a link between the cultures of Boulder and Tajikistan. Ferns and indoor trees around the pool and outer edges round out the garden-like atmosphere, while a skylight lets sunshine spill over the lavish decorations and earth tones of the interior. The effect is enchanting, romantic and soothing.
Outside, the “tree of life” grows across a series of eight ceramic panels on the building’s exterior, while Boulder Creek babbles happily by. In the warmer months, vines grow thick around a trellis, making a natural canopy for visitors to enjoy their tea in the shade.
It was here I found myself recently, enjoying the company of an old friend, nibbling on hummus and samosas in the warm spring sunshine.
There was still just enough chill in the air to justify drinking a hot tea. For the special occasion, I wanted to try something different, so I ordered the Lily Pearls, a “display” tea made from green tea leaves handsewn with a red lily blossom and a string of Jasmine flowers.
To admit my ignorance, I had no idea what I was getting. I was surrounded by beauty and in the company of a dear friend, so the tea sounded as special as the moment felt.
And that’s exactly what I got.
Display teas can be crafted from green, black or white tea (there are a few to choose from on the Dushanbe tea menu) along with flowers like chrysanthemum, jasmine, lily and rose. When placed in hot water, the little bulb unfolds into a flower-like display. Different handsewn teas can resemble a shell or a fruit.
These types of teas were created as a tribute to the mountains where tea gardens are found. Like the tea, the flowers add their own health benefits and subtle flavor.
The Lily Pearls is served in a clear wine glass. A little bulb of sorts is placed in the glass and then hot water is poured over it. Then be patient. After three to four minutes, the bulb will start to unfurl and settle in the glass, eventually blooming into a flower, with the red lily blossom crowning the white Jasmine leaves, all anchored and surrounded by the green tea. It was earthy and light, a classic green tea.
It was a perfectly special treat for a perfectly special moment.
Dushanbe Teahouse. 1770 13th St., Boulder, 303-442-4993.