Have you ever found a place that is just perfect for your purposes? Maybe a bookstore with the right size comfy chairs, a straight, well-paved road where you can put it in a high gear and really fly; or a quiet beach where you can dig your toes into the sand and dance in the waves? Welcome to Dobrá Tea in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Dobrá is located on the main drag, but inside the door, you’re in another world. There is an open sitting area up front and four smaller rooms divided off by hanging beads. The décor is generically Middle Eastern with rich carpets on the floor and walls, swooping arches painted on the walls and embellished with large plastic “jewels,” Moroccan-style lamps hanging above, a burbling fountain, low octagonal tables, and seating on cushions or low chairs and benches. There was a happy babble of conversation around, but it was muted by the clever layout so no one had to speak up to be heard. My wife and I went with two friends (full disclosure: Dobrá’s owner is my friend’s cousin, though we didn’t get to meet him). As we parked ourselves in the back seating area, I noticed the sign on the post: To honor the act of drinking tea, we ask that you keep this area technology free.
And that was the best possible introduction to this place, which is all about respect for remarkable teas. They offer a bit of food too, mostly Middle Eastern fare like mezze plate, hummus, and some pastries, but these are clearly meant as accompaniment to the main focus of tea. The 85-page(!) menu offers detailed descriptions of teas in all six styles (plus tisanes) from nine countries. They heat water to the right temperature for each style and bring it out in the right kind of pots, with enough cups to go around (except for the large gaiwan and single cup). Then they bring more water in a glass pot set on a holder with a tea light candle below to keep it warm. The staff (too-adorably referred to as “devoteas”) are incredibly knowledgeable about every tea they serve. They made excellent recommendations and emphasized how long each subsequent steep should be.
We sampled the Bi Luo Chun Taihu, Liu An Guapian, Bai Mu Dan (white peony), and masala. I won’t go into the tasting notes here because this is a review of the place, not the teas, but suffice to say they were all remarkable and well selected. I was glad that Dobrá sells in bulk so I could walk out with several ounces, all quite reasonably priced. Check out the website to see the range of offerings.
I am dreaming of opening my own teahouse and have thought a lot about what it would include. On almost every count, Dobrá beat me to it. This place is, quite simply, perfect. These people clearly care about tea and it shows in every detail. If you are anywhere near central Massachusetts, make your way to Dobrá as soon as you can.