Reading the tea leaves at Dushanbe Teahouse

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When Boulderites say "Meet you at the teahouse," no one ever asks which or where. The Dushanbe Teahouse is an integral part of the Boulder scene, a fantastically decorated, Persian-Islamic themed place that features hand-painted tiles, intricately carved wooden pillars, an inside fish pool and rows of fragrant roses outside the front door. It offers an international-style menu and is thronged with diners morning, noon and night. The teahouse was a gift from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a sister city to Boulder, and it is truly one of a kind: There is no other such teahouse in the entire United States.

But what many people don't know or have forgotten is the bitter struggle it took to get the Dushanbe Teahouse erected.

Mention all the politicking to people over the age of forty — the letters to the editor, the furiously opposed city council members — and they'll tend to wrinkle their foreheads and say, yes, they do remember something about that. Tell someone younger there was talk of Soviet devices being hidden within the ornamentation to spy on Rocky Flats, and they'll snort with disbelieving laughter. Try to summarize the list of objections — from both the left and the right — and you'll find yourself close to speechless.

What the entire brouhaha did accomplish was to make clear that there were elements in Boulder as mean-spirited and provincial as others were liberal-minded and internationally aware. It took close to a decade for Dushanbe's offer of friendship to come to fruition.

Still, what better way to ruminate on peace and contentment these days than on the teahouse patio, listening to the running waters of the creek and sipping tea with a name like White Peony, Jasmine Pearls or Dragon Eyes? That's just what I did recently while researching "Tea Time," this week's featured Cafe story that will be published here tomorrow.

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