Sunday, August 24, 2014

Life, Community, Relations—one cup of tea at a time

Dobra Tea

by Pasckie Pascua

[NOTE: 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 apologies.]

THE story of Dobra Tea strikes a chord.
       Years 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 storm.
       I may be simplifying (or idealizing) it but a good brew at the center of any discourse keeps the compromises alive and resolutions open.

       The 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.
       "Because 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."
       In 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.
The 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.
       “Tea 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 around tea.”
       This 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.”
       Here 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 flavor.
       Costs ranges from $3.50 to $5.50, which aren't bad at all.
       Tea 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.
       “I 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...”
       At 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.

DOBRA 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:

No comments:

Post a Comment