Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dushanbe Tea Room: A Great Tea Room of America

Pouring tea at Dushanbe
When a tea room shows up in Bruce Richardson's  Great Tea Rooms of America, I know two things: its going to be good and I want to go there. Last month, I had the great fortune to be in Boulder, Colorado with the opportunity to visit one of the entries in Richardson's book - the Dushanbe Tea Room -  and it was, in fact, very, very good!

The tea room itself is a gift from Boulder's sister city in Tajikistan and the decor reflects the unique craftsmanship of many of the country's artists. The brightly colored carved ceiling, white plaster wall panels and bronze sculptors are visually stunning and, alone, would be worth the trip.

Beautiful carved ceilings from artists in Boulder's sister city in  Tajikistan

A fountain surrounded by bronze sculptures fills the center of the tea room
  The food, however, is equally amazing. My sister-in-law and I went for afternoon tea (of course!) and sweets and savories were all fresh and delicious. General Manager, Kasi Tenborg, joined us at our table for a chat and explained the restaurant's mission of farm-to-table as well as the history of the Boulder tea room. (For more on all that, see The Detroit Tea Examiner's article "Dushanbe Boulder Tea Room provides a unique setting with a creative menu".)

General Manager, Kasi Tenborg, visited our table and explained the tea room's history
To start our meal, we were served an "amuse bouche" (a French term that literally translates "to amuse the mouth") of asparagus soup with goat cheese. Served in glossy-white, demi-tasse cups, the soup was as appealing to look at as it was to taste. Asked how one should properly convey the soup to one's lips, our waiter told us using spoons was the proper method. The only suggestion I would add here, is that it would be delightful to have miniature utensils for such purposes.

An amuse bouche of asparagus soup with goat cheese was fabulous

Our afternoon tea came with a variety of scrumptious sandwiches and desserts, along with scones served with cream and lemon curd. Dushanbe also has a line of their own tea which was served in individual tea pots to accompany the repast. We sampled four different teas and our favorites were Earl Grey and Boulder Tangerine.

Afternoon tea menu and fresh flowers adorned our table

Sweets at the top of our three-tiered tray
After tea, we stopped at the retail counter and purchased some tea for home for everyone in the family - including the dogs. Yes!, it's true - the Boulder Tea Room also carries a line of tea for canines. Back in Michigan, I brewed some for our two dogs:  Baylee drank it right from the bowl, but Chloe preferred hers mixed in her food. But more about that to come.

Some of the items for sale include dog tea!
The Dushanbe tea room scores big on ambiance, service and cuisine. Now that I've been to this great tea rooms in America, I can't wait to go back!
My sister-in-law holds our take-home treasures outside the tea room 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tea Time in Boulder Rocks!

Ku Cha House of Tea on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall
In the last three months, we at BTS have made as many trips:  February, we visited Atlanta,  in March we were in Florida and last month, April, we were dividing our time between Boulder and Denver.  Although a little jet-lagged and airport weary, I never tire of traveling or taking tea. Our trip to Colorado provided the latter in spades. We hit four tea venues/events in two-and-a-half days beginning with a Chinese tea room and ending at an in-home afternoon tea. We experienced a broad spectrum of tea times and all were amazing.

Quick break in Boulder with sister-in-law Cara
We started our trip in Boulder; my husband was there for business and I tagged along to connect with tea friends and family. My sister-in-law, Cara, resides in Denver and we had such a great time last year visiting with her and her husband and two boys (as well as The Brown Palace and Celestial Seasonings!) that I knew we’d be in for more fun this time around.  Cara was my “tea wing-man” on all but one of this year's tea outings and we slurped and sconed our way through two days of afternoon teas.  I know, tough assignment (ha!), but we were up for the task.

Ku Cha employee, Nich Dipasquale brews us up a sample of teas

The first night in Boulder, it was unseasonably warm -  the region had been dumped with snow the week before (and the week after!) our visit - and when my husband and I decided to dine out in the city’s Pearl Street Mall, we were caught up in the spring fever of the locals. Open air dining was available at almost every restaurant in the upscale neighborhood and as we walked down the busy streets, we came across Ku Cha, a Chinese tea room and retail store.  Located right on Pearl Street, this inviting store grabbed our attention immediately with its bright, cherry interior lined with shelves of tea. The customer service was equally appealing as we were treated to tea samples and steeping demonstrations by Nich Dipasquale.

My brother brought this peeing baby back from China. I picked up one at Ku Cha in Boulder.
My favorite tea accessory at Ku Cha was the “peeing baby”.  I had never heard of such a thing until this winter when my brother, Ed, returned from his year-and-a-half residency in China as part of a work assignment. He brought back several artifacts from his journeys and showed me the miniature terra cotta baby he bought at a tea room. It’s used as a hot-water indicator. You pour the hot water over the baby and if he leaks, the water is the right temperature for tea.

It was amazing, but less than a month after Ed showed me the peeing baby he brought back, I ran into the same tea accouterments in Boulder at Ku Cha. Nich prepared a variety of teas and ran through the peeing  baby demonstration for us a few times, to our delight and, yes,  giggles. Of course, along with a shopping bag full of tea, I bought one hot water indicator for myself.

Nich D. prepares a sample of Ku Cha's teas
We also met the owner of Ku Cha, Qin Liu, as he stopped in briefly just before the store closed. We wrote about our adventure for The Detroit Tea Examiner’s column: Ku Cha House of Tea:  Where East meets West in Boulder.

At Ku Cha - nothing like sampling some tea after a long day of travel
And, that was just our first night! The next morning, we headed to the Dushanbe Tea Room in Boulder followed by our final day's visit to The Denver Tea Room and a trip to the author of “Tea on the Titantic” Penelope Carlevato’s home for afternoon tea. But more about that in the next few blogs.

We headed west for a taste of the East and enjoyed it all to the last drop!