Dobra Tea

Madison, Wisconsin


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rating star

Dobra is a quaint, cool joint in the heart of State Street. I love the location. Dobra fills the "quiet tea house" niche that had been unfilled in downtown Madison.

The decor is exotic and I liked the elevated platforms where you and your friends can sit, cross-legged, and sip fine teas from around the world. There aren't enough places like this in the US.

This place does have a few issues, though. First, the teas are a much pricier than I've seen in other loose-leaf teashops. The selection is large, but it tended to skew toward Chinese teas, and I think could have used a few more Japanese, Indian, Sri Lankan and East African offerings. A cup of tea (which affords 3-5 steeps) will cost roughly $5, which is quite expensive.

The service was a bit slow; the first time I went, I ordered a three-cup tasting ($5.28 with tax) and it took over 10 minutes to actually get the order. I wasn't terribly impressed with any of the three: the "yellow" tea smelled of corn and was a bit too weak (normally they give a variety of green tea, but they had run out); the black tea was over-brewed and bitter; and the puer-eh was interesting, but not my cup of tea, to use a bad pun.

Dobra does, however, have some interesting smoked Japanese green teas and a decent selection of Chinese oolongs as well.

The cups and teapots needed a deep scrub as they were stained from previous brews. This isn't a huge issue, but it detracted from the elegant ambience and level of sophistication that Dobra is aiming for.

I also had a baba ganouj snack ($7), which was delicious---well-seasoned roasted eggplant, soft and fresh whole-gran pita bread, all with olive oil. Once again, it's a pricey dish, but the quality was high.

If Dobra Tea offered some vegan desserts, a more diverse tea selection, and sped up their service a bit, this place would be a gem. As it stands, it falls a little short of its full potential, but is still a worthwhile stop if you're strolling down State Street and looking for something different than a normal coffee shop.

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