Whilst traveling through the long hot Arizona desert, my companion and I sought out a watering hole. Never did we expect to find a diamond such as this in the arid Tucson rough.

Casbah Tea House
Organic Vegetarian Cuisine
628 North Fourth Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85705 USA
(520) 740-0393

A deceptively small little shop-front belay what awaited us inside. The interior looked like a normal little coffee/sandwich shop, except instead of the usual turkey and swiss on focaccia, they had Tempeh Rueben club Sandwiches. Strangely, there was no mention of tea, which was what my companion and I were seeking. I asked the Ani Difranco-esque girl behind the counter about the tea, and she informed me that we weren't in the actual tea house, but in the sandwich shop, The Casbah Cafe. She led us to a small door to the left of the entrance. Through the door was a narrow outdoor passage, filled with hanging pots brimming over with flowering vines, the walls covered in a creeping jasmine plant, which made the air heavy with scent.

We passed through a screen door, and a rather Rasta-looking guy greeted us warmly and led us through yet another door into the tea house. Well, the word "house" isn't exactly right. It was actually an enormous tent. Rather like a small circus tent, only made out of darkly-dyed cloth with intricate patterns woven throughout. The interior was decorated with giant golden Buddhas, ornate ottomans, and low tables surrounded by pillows of every shape and size. There were birds flying around inside the tent, chirping brightly from the potted trees. The fellow led us to one of the low tables and offered us some sliced pita and hummus. We browsed through their very extensive list of teas (which had their own menu!) and took in our surroundings. The calm and relaxed atmosphere was wonderful.

In the menu, they described their philosophy:

The Casbah Teahouse is an international, eco-friendly, alternative, bohemian, eclectic, organic, vegetarian restaurant/coffee and tea shop which celebrates diversity and self expression.

We are a seasonal operation and become a traveling teahouse in the summer months (June through September). We cater organic food and teas and vend handmade gifts and ethnic imports at a wide variety of music, art and craft festivals, and holistic faires.

The road show includes one of the world's largest hemp Bedouin-style tents, creating community space and providing a stage for a variety of musical and bellydance performances.

None of the other patrons batted an eye when my companion (read: boyfriend) and I waxed romantic and sat very near one another, which for us, was very refreshing. We usually get dirty looks (or worse) for just holding hands. We ordered our tea, and proceeded to loll away the afternoon. The food was wonderful, even for us carnivores. Here are some highlights from their menu that range from standard veggie fair to exotic innovations to plain strange:
Mediterranean Plate
An array of the Casbah's finest. Organic homemade hummus and tabouli, served over a bed of organic lettuce. Accompanied by organic tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, green and red onions, dolmas, Greek olives, and feta cheese. Served with whole wheat pita.

Gypsy Stew
A delicious, homemade organic, coconut-curry, red lentil stew found only at the Casbah. Served over brown rice with a whole wheat pita.

Blue Sky Soda
Cola, rootbeer, ginger ale, and black cherry soda.

The owner, one Carol Ann Krueger, used to travel with the Grateful Dead selling her wares. After Jerry Garcia passed away, she returned to Tucson and founded the teahouse and a retail store, the Creative Spirit Gallery, which is right next door.

If you find yourself trekking through the Tucson area in search for a nice oasis at which to slake your thirst and sate the grumbling hunger within, you should stop by the teahouse. I've never been to anyplace quite like it before, and I'm pretty sure I never will again. That is, until my next trip to Arizona.

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