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Dobra Tea menu offers hundreds of brews

If you're looking for a place to celebrate the traditions and tastes of tea from around the world, Dobra Tea in Ashland is the spot.

The tea house at 75 N. Main St. opened in August, the latest in a chain of independently owned shops rooted in Prague, where young tea aficionados met to exchange forbidden tea and ideas in the waning days of Communist rule, then founded a business in 1993, Dobra's website reports.

In an atmosphere reminiscent of a stop on some exotic trade route, the Ashland tearoom mingles elements of Asia, India, the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe. A bar-like counter with stools looks out to the street. Rattan tables and chairs welcome quiet conversation, while a few more steps lead to a communal seating area almost like a giant banquet or a pillow-strewn platform where people take off their shoes and sit on the floor.

When a friend and I ducked in for a rejuvenating break from the holiday hustle, friendly strangers beckoned us to join them on the bench wrapping the communal seating area. I thought our conversation might disturb their enjoyment of folk musicians playing in a back corner, so we took a table closer to the front of the shop.

Dobra's menu is an inch-thick book, listing hundreds of teas with poetic and educational descriptions. Knowledgeable servers, called Devoteas, deliver the menu and a little bell to summon them when you are ready to order.

After perusing options, we decided on a chrysanthemum pu-erh. Pu-erh teas, made from leaves that are oxidized and fermented during processing, have a rich earthy taste that was lightened here with delicate floral notes. 

Each tea on the menu is brewed and presented in the cups and pots that are traditional where it originates. Thanks to a pot of water, kept warm over a candle, we could re-infuse the dark leaves and golden flower buds that filled a Yixing pottery teapot, enabling us to enjoy subtle changes in flavor with each infusion, all for just $5. Just as the menu promised, it perfectly complemented both food and conversation.

We ordered a mezze plate, sampling a variety of Middle Eastern snacks for $10. It included cucumber slices, a mix of marinated olives, dill-spiked dolmas — grape leaves stuffed with rice — and  sumptuous hummus, sprinkled with za'atar, a zesty blend of thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. While I was skeptical about gluten-free lavash, the warm flatbread was nutty tasting and nicely chewy.

All food at Dobra is gluten-free and vegetarian. Much of the menu skews Mediterranean, but miso and mochi are available. An array of tempting desserts is displayed at a counter.

Promising to share, my friend and I ordered a buckwheat fig spiral ($3.95) and a raspberry and brown butter tea cake ($3.75). The buckwheat fig spiral had a meltingly tender crumb with an earthy flavor that echoed our tea choice. Raspberries perfectly lightened the rich, toasty taste of the tea cake. I couldn't pick a favorite between the two perfect pastries, and now I want to try Dobra's other desserts, too.

The tea house is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. There is parking in the rear, off Granite Street. Call 541-708-0264 or see www.dobrateaashland.com.

Anita Burke

Dobra Tea's menu offers hundreds of brews from around the world. Mail Tribune/Anita Burke
Dobra serves light meals to accompany a multitude of teas from around the world. Mail Tribune/Anita Burke