With the opening last month of a new location on Haywood Road, Dobra is now promoting tea culture in West Asheville as well as downtown and Black Mountain. What is it about these tearooms that’s resonating with residents and supporting such rapid growth?
Contrary to common assumption, Dobra Tea didn’t originate in Asheville. Owner Andrew Snavely has been connected to the company since the first U.S. location opened in Burlington, Vt., in 2003. But Dobra Tea dates back a decade earlier, when the company’s pioneer tearoom opened in the Czech Republic. “Tea became like a refuge, a medicine to enjoy together, kind of like an underground, secret, speak-easy kind of thing,” says Snavely. “Tearooms were definitely talked about and sought after, but weren’t publicly displayed.”
There are now seven U.S. locations.
“There are other hip, cool, conscious places in this country, so collectively, we are spreading our culture of tea, our menu and our offerings to these different places,” says Snavely. “We’re a collective of devoted tea drinkers that really believe in bringing the culture and awareness of tea, and of the trade, to our communities.”
Two of the three local sites were added within the past three years, and Snavely believes their success is due in large part to the various neighborhoods’ evolution.
“The different quadrants — north, south, east and west — are really starting to become more defined,” he points out. “We’re finding that a lot of our clientele who used to come downtown from these different surrounding neighborhoods are avoiding downtown now, because it’s so busy.” Particularly in summer, he continues, “Parking and traffic and the overall intensity and stimulation of downtown are intense for a lot of people.”
West Asheville has embraced the newest location with open arms. “From the moment we opened, it was all of our regulars again, all of the westside crew — the people we haven’t seen in months, who don’t go downtown anymore,” says Snavely.
Each location offers its own novel vibe. “For me, Black Mountain is that retreat — you get away from the craziness and go into the quiet space and enjoy tea in the mountain setting,” he says. Downtown, on the other hand, “is always on: There’s never a dull moment, and there’s something to be said about that.”
Co-owner Lindsay Thomas says, “Andrew and I had a lot of fun dreaming up ideas for this tearoom. We really wanted to go for that very feminine, smooth feeling in West Asheville, whereas the Asheville tearoom has more of a linear, edgy feel to it.”
A few things set the West Asheville tearoom apart from its brethren. A separate tasting room hosts weekend samplings, Fridays with Sumitra of Panther Moon Tea Co., and Saturdays and Sundays with Dobra staff. “The tasting room is for really personal, in-depth, intimate tea tastings and education,” Snavely explains.
A savory food menu prepared by kitchen manager Nikki Moon is available, as well as a wider selection of desserts, including a raw, vegan cheesecake whipped up by Thomas.
The savory menu features such options as the Westside Bowl (house-made kimchee, shiitake mushrooms, kale, carrot, beet, daikon, cucumber wakame salad and toasted seeds served over rice with a choice of tahini or peanut sauce). Breakfast patrons can enjoy cardamom-rose rice pudding or a coconut parfait (made with coconut yogurt, granola and seasonal fruit) alongside a morning cup of tea. At all three locations, everything offered is gluten-free.
Dobra Tea (707 Haywood Road) is open 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.