With the teahouse menu, the Martinellis decided to honor the Sister City concept with traditional ethnic cuisines. But it was hard to find chefs because of the strong focus on French cuisine in most culinary schools. "We wanted not just any old Indian curry," Lenny says, "but specifically food from, say, the Punjab. We were making chimichurri here years ago. I found the recipe in a beat-up Argentinian cookbook. Now it's everywhere, but no one had heard of it then."

Affordability was a primary motive when the couple started Three Leaf Farm a year ago to provide produce, eggs and honey for the teahouse and the four other restaurants they now own: Aji, Leaf, Zucca and Huckleberry. All waste from every restaurant is composted; Lenny is obsessed with compost, and can wax lyrical about eggshells. The Martinellis' dedication to local sourcing and sustainability led to their recently being named Nature's Plate People's Choice Winner for the metro area in a contest run by the Nature Conservancy and OpenTable. With a farm, Sara says, "you're so much more invested in every step of the production. Our son probably harvested the vegetables you and your friends ate."

The empathetic waitstaff is no accident, either. "They have to deal with over 100 hand-processed teas from all major growing regions, and wine from all over the world," says Lenny. "We want to take people on a journey, and the guide is your server."

From Tajikistan, with love: The Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder.
mark manger
From Tajikistan, with love: The Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder.

Location Info


Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

1770 13th St.
Boulder, CO 80302

Category: Restaurant > Brunch

Region: Boulder


Dushanbe Teahouse
Korean kalbi short ribs (appetizer) $8
Bengali salmon $18
Catalonian pork $17
Khoresht-e naranja $16
1770 13th Street, Boulder
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Unfortunately, both Mayor Maksud Ikramov and architect Lado Shanidze died before the Dushanbe Teahouse was ever unpacked, but their gift is now a reliable source of revenue for the City of Boulder. And if the process of erecting it revealed the ugliest side of the town, dozens of people have assisted in the coming together of what is now a community institution. Start with the patient work of Mary Axe and the Sister City organizers, and the vision of Honey (who resigned under pressure soon after his decisive decision to support the teahouse). Move to the third and fourth-generation Tajik craftsmen who came here to teach and to learn, and the local artists who worked with them. Add Harlequin Gardens, which maintains the fragrant rose garden in front. And consider the eclecticism, idealism and business acumen of the Martinellis, who somehow managed to bring all the diverse strands into harmony.

It's dark outside the window, and the rain has eased. We're relieved that the stifling heat wave of the last few weeks has lifted, and we're talking about Ogden Nash's wonderful poems, both silly and serious. Then for some idiotic reason we start comparing our winking ability. Rob — as he reminds me firmly later — is by far the best winker in the group. Dorothy and Marykate, both young scientists, discuss the push-pull between ambition and family. We look around at the artwork, and I point out what Seieroe had pointed out to me: the peacocks at the top of two of the carved pillars. The female is looking down, and there's a tiny chick between her feet. It would take a long time, we agree, to plumb this place's riches.

"You come and sit, and it's like a flower that opens up," Seieroe had told me, quoting one of the wood carvers. "You see more every time you take it in."

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What a wonderful article detailing the often embarrassing Boulder history of of this unique and special building!