A few typo errors and missing quote marks slipped our eyes in the
print version of this article. We will cite those errors in an
“Erratum” notice in the next/Sept issue of The Indie. Our
story of Dobra Tea strikes a chord.
ago, in the northern mountains of the Philippines, tribes and
lowlanders, Communist rebels and government troops, were mired in
both cultural and political polar extremes that it seemed dialogue
was a quixotic proposition. Peace was gasping like a flower caught in
a hale of monsoon rain and typhoon wind. And then, a ceasefire was
declared and “tapuy” (home-crafted rice wine) was served on the
negotiating table. Then peace starts to emerge like rainbow after a
may be simplifying (or idealizing) it but a good brew at the center
of any discourse keeps the compromises alive and resolutions open.
story of Dobrá Tea, as its website narrates, begins in Prague during
the last few years of Communism, where a group of young tea lovers
began meeting to sample rare Indian, Chinese and Japanese teas
smuggled into Czechoslovakia.
of a shortage of foreign currency, high quality teas were then
available exclusively to the Party, State and Military elite. Then
came the `Velvet Revolution' and the Fall of Communism in 1989. In
1992, `The Society of Tea Devotees' was formed and the following
year, Dobra Tea's first Bohemian-style tearoom, Dobrá Čajovna,
opened in Prague... The Čajovna (tearoom) became a shelter, a place
for safety, where like minded individuals could gather and taste the
world of tea. Much success blossomed with Dobrá's idea and the
company began to spread its tea concept to many small towns
throughout Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland."
2003 Dobrá Tea opened its first US tearoom in Burlington, VT then
one followed in Portland, Maine and then in 2001, a Moroccan-motif
incarnation opened in Asheville. In August last year, a Japanese
style Tearoom was up in Black Mountain.
story of Dobra Tea, and the entrepreneurial saga of Snavely and his
partner/co-owner Lindsay Thomas, certainly play like a microcosm of a
Merchant-Ivory epic... Yet Snavely's demeanor doesn't seem to exude
such magnificent cross-continental journey in search for tea. Or the
meaning of life in a teabag.
is a very universal beverage. It is a beverage and a plant that is
cultivated throughout the world, in every single continent, and it
brings forth community and togetherness,” Snavely, slight and
bearded, told The Indie with a feline soft-spokenness like an ascetic
meandering over words of wisdom than a Brooks Brothers-garbed
business dude spewing market economics with synthetic confidence.
Then he declares, “I like to say that the social importance of
meetings, and togetherness and relationships are formed and founded
is a man who believes in his tea like no other that I've ever known.
“I have been traveling the world for about ten years now to meet
with tea farmers and then discover new varieties,” he enthuses. As
a testimony of his beautiful tea madness, even Dobra Tea's menu comes
out more like a textbook than a look-see breakdown of choices—85
pages of literature. Says he, “Each tea has its own story that is
based on our travels.”
are a few samplings from the menu cum journal.
] Chinese Green Tea: Dian Lu Eshan. Remembering the Tea King. A
remarkable, fresh green China tea produced in the famous tea province
of Yunnan. No other tea is comparable to this sparkling, pale green
infusion which offers unique and inimitable delights of taste and
aroma. It is cultivated at high altitude, with long, silver,
downy-tipped leaves firmly rolled lengthwise. This tea promotes
health, and has a mild, euphoric effect.
] Japanese Tea: Bancha Kyoto. A common type of green Japanese tea,
intended for everyday drinking. A small, flat, light green leaf with
yellow tints, it is smooth and easy to drink, with the characteristic
freshness of Japanese greens. [ ] Vietnamese Tea. Che Xanh. A
remarkable Vietnamese green tea, whose leaves are picked with
extraordinary care. A vegetal infusion with hints of both Chinese and
Japanese greens due to processing. This tea is gently steamed, then
pan-fried to stop oxidation. It will awaken a drifting mind, and is
excellent hot or chilled.
] Korean Tea. Nok Cha. A seasonal variety of green tea from the
Jirishan mountain range on the southern Korean coast. This light
infusion conceals an unseen taste "on the boundary" between
Chinese and Japanese teas. The leaves are gently steamed and then
pan-fried to complete the drying process, offering a savory, oceanic
ranges from $3.50 to $5.50, which aren't bad at all.
aside, a most fascinating facet of Snavely and Thomas' brainchild is
its deep affinity with local-ness. While they bring culture to the
table via their tea, they also interface their menu with what the
community could offer, like a light fare of sweet snacks, all 100
percent gluten-free. Some of their collaborators are Asheville bakers
Silvermoon Chocolates, Herban Baker, French Broad Chocolate Lounge,
and Blue Door Bakery.
like to bring the community side of this business through
collaboration, which is very important in Asheville,” Snavely adds.
There is no way to end this story but pause it and go check out the
thick journal of tea choices—before Andrew Snavely and Lindsay
Thomas add more to what's already available. “A new shipment of
Japanese Green Tea just came in, and later this week...”
Dobra Tea, life is alive and community is continually in flowing
engagement. Indeed, that's how relations and relationships are built,
nurtured and nourished—one cup of tea at a time.
TEA Asheville is located at 78
N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 (828 575-2424). Open: Mon—Wed,
9am – 10pm; Thu—Sat, 9am – 11pm; Sunday, 11am – 7pm. DOBRA
TEA Black Muntain is at 120 Broadway Street (828.357.8530). Open:
Mon—Sat, 9am – 7pm; Sunday, 11am – 7pm. More info:
 Downtown Asheville: Ben's Tune Up, Buchi Bar, City Bakery, The Crow and The Quill, Dobra Tea, Downtown Market, Fine Arts Theater, Flipside, French Broad Coop, Izzy's, Hi-Wire Brewing, Malaprop's, Mamacita's, Mela Indian Restaurant, Orange Peel, Posana Cafe, Rosetta's
Kitchen, Savage Moon, Sly Grog Wine and Beer Lounge (at Downtown Market), Ultimate
Ice Cream Company, Urban Orchard, Woolworth Walk.
 West Asheville: Asheville Sandwich Company, Beauty Parade, Farmacy Juice &
Tonic Bar, Lucky Otter, Odd Cafe, Orbit Video, Universal Joint, West End Bakery, Westville Pub,
West Village Market.
 Black Mountain: Black Mountain College/Cafeteria, Dobra Tea, Dripolator Coffeehouse, Hopey & Co. (formerly, Amazing Savings), My Father's Pizza and Pasta, Town Pump, Trailhead Restaurant, White Horse.
 Fairview: The Local Joint.
 Weaverville: Blue Mountain Pizza, Well-Bred Bakery.
 Athens GA: 40 Watt Club, Bar South, Cine, Flicker, Fuzzy's Taco, Georgia Bar, Georgia Theatre Rooftop, The
Globe, The Grill, The Grit, Hendershot's, Little Kings, Mellow Mushroom, Nowhere Bar, Park Plaza, Ted's Most
Best, and Trappeze.
More outlets, later. Or you may want to
subscribe, so you don't need to drive to wherever—we'll mail you
your Indie while it's hot as you!
Homecooked, Homemade Southern Soul Food, Served Hot
is a no-brainer. Why is that? Well, for one—I am a Filipino. Back
home in the islands, we could prepare a chicken dish 101 ways, and
that is an understatement. We also consume almost all of the fowl's
endowments: Meat, feet, head, blood, bones, entrails. The feathers
and claws also serve other purposes other than as food.
I am not in the Philippines at this juncture. I am wombed in
Asheville, in the mountains of North Carolina. Yet, chicken remains
“easy” to me. Why is that? Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack, that is
why. This is “homecooked, home-made Southern soul food” marvel
the way granny cooked them, with some modifications. “Our hot
chicken experience is a pleasure you keep on coming back to,” owner
Rich Cundiff told The Indie recently. “It is addictive and face
melting!” “Face-melting” means spicy cayenne face melting, that
is—that could definitely rival Indian cuisine's tikka masala or the
Filipino chili peppers on coconut milk plate, “Bicol Express.”
“Tennessee Style” hot chicken, says its menu folder, “... is
brined and cooked in small batches, to maintain freshness and flavor,
then prepared to order with the spice level as you like it—from
plain to xx hot.” Hotness is categorized as (not so hot to
hottest): Plain, Honey, X-mild, Mild, Mildium, Medium, Hot,
Foothills, Xxhot. The fried chicken, spicy or not, exudes an intimate
kick that—yes, reminds us of what exactly grandma used to prepare.
The dry rub, thin flour dredge, and flimsy oil wash makes for an
exquisite crust and body. Juicy but never greasy—and with a choice
of 4 sides out of 13, an order is already a full meal at below $12.
chicken “hotness” and its standout choice of side dishes aren't
really the very reason why one ventures at Rocky's. Cundiff,
who was Earth Fare's chief operating officer, took over Rocky's Hot
Chicken Shack more than two years ago, from a friend when it was
still located in Arden. “I bought the recipe, and expanded it,”
he says. “From then on, we have enjoyed steady growth.”
unprecedented surge in patronage in a relatively far-flung locale –
away from Asheville's restaurant row in downtown, somewhere down
Patton Avenue beside a tiny car auto dealership and honky tonk motel
– isn't just credited to Cundiff's finger-lickin' good fowl on a
plate. Rocky's “casual family dining concept,” ably shared by its
staff of 20 on 7-days rotation, makes the restaurant more of
destination for locals, not for tourists. That's hardly a marketing
hook, it's an honest invite. Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack is one of
Asheville’s locally owned and operated restaurants, and Rich is an
active board member of Asheville Independent Restaurants (AIR)
get that feeling of being taken cared of,” prides Lauren Cundiff,
Rich's wife and co-owner. “And we also share these blessings with
the community by way of donations to local churches, food banks, and
school system.” Adds Rich, “We also help local musicians,
individually,” which makes Rocky's stand out among other businesses
in town, being the only local establishment that treats local
performers with special love.
that almost instantaneously comes with healthy eating certainly add
sublime fervor to Rocky's “mercilessly hot” and “psychedelic”
chicken allure. “We source quality and local ingredients for the
recipes that we make from scratch,” says Rich. “Our natural birds
are raised without antibiotics or other additives.” The Cundiffs'
menu doesn't end with the obligatory slew of enflaming birds. “We
have a crowd-pleasing menu and daily specials based upon seasonality
and freshness,” offers Lauren. These favorites include waffles,
desserts like their own “banana pudding in a jar,” and what
Rocky's prides as “our daily soul bowl”--all chased down by
freshly squeezed lemonade, sweet southern tea and other soft drinks.
Not to be missed, of course, is the bar's choice of locally crafted
you go. My islands-chicken fix is pretty well served and pleased
right here in Asheville. I may boast that Filipinos like me could
prepare a fowl 101 ways... But, I bet Rich and Lauren Cundiff and
their staff could whip out 102 “hot” ways to cook and savor a
chicken, the Appalachian way. So get hot like a true Southern spirit
at Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack. It's all good.
Hot Chicken Shack is located at 1455 Patton Avenue, West Asheville,
North Carolina. Tel # 828 575 2260. Open Everyday.
11:00 AM to 9:00 PM: Sunday-Thursday; 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM: Friday
and Saturday. www.rockyshotchickenshack.com