Surrounded by the sounds of a bubbling creek and exotic sights and flavors, it’s easy to think you’re somewhere other than Boulder when you’re at the Dushanbe Tea House.

“The architecture is unrivaled,” Whitney Coffie said. “There’s not much like this. The ambiance, the kind of quiet feel. Their teas are honestly amazing. I haven’t had anything like this.”

Lenny Martinelli, who owns Dushanbe Tea House, says its purpose is to “come to a sense of a different place.”

It all started when Boulder became sister cities with Dushanbe, Tajikistan in the early 1980s. Volunteers were trying to break the ice of the Cold War.

In return, the people of Dushanbe set out to build the tea house, which was first crafted in their home city.

It was then shipped to Boulder, where 200 pallets sat for another few years. Nobody had a good idea about what to do with the giant jigsaw puzzle – and couldn’t quite figure out where the door was.

“Everything was either in the Russian language or the Persian language,” Martinelli said. “So, we needed help!”

They brought in Tajik and Persian artisans to show them how it’s done.

They finally opened the Dushanbe Tea House – sometimes called the Russian Tea House – in 1998. Now, nearly 20 years later, it’s serving food from all over to people from all over.

“The Tea House is one of a kind,” Martinelli said. “It’s definitely – it’s a treasure.”

Boulder eventually did return the favor and opened an internet café in Dushanbe in 2009.