A Tea Addict's Journal

Dobra tearoom

February 9, 2009 · 16 Comments

I’m in Madison, Wisconsin, and while I walked around town today, I came across a tea room. It’s called Dobra Tea. I never let a tea room go by without at least taking a peek, and since they looked pretty ok from the outside, I decided to check it out.

I ended up spending a little time there. Even though I was in a bit of a rush, I wanted to try some tea, as they looked rather well managed, with at least a few heads screwed on straight. That can’t always be said about other tea places in this country. When I asked if they do take out tea, their answer was “only loose leaf that you can bring home and brew yourself”. Great, that means no carry out cups…. I like places that don’t compromise too much.

So I plucked myself down for a gaiwan of shuixian.

The gaiwan they used was a little too large for shuixian for one person, but then, I should’ve specified for a smaller gaiwan. The use of the little heating thing for water is rather interesting. Underneath is a tea light, which, admittedly, gives off some heat, but I suspect it’s not really enough to keep the water very hot for very long. If you stick around for a while and take some time between brews, your water can cool substantially. I think that happened to the people sitting next to me, who were three people sharing one pot (in a largish yixing). Their water container was much larger than mine, and I think a little tea light really isn’t going to do much other than having a placebo effect of keeping the water warm.

It is also interesting becuase I flipped over the kettle to take a look inside. It is obvious that they are either using water of a very high mineral content, or, perhaps, that people let the water burn for a long time without using it. I am guessing the latter, because there is obvious scale buildup in the kettles, and there was mineral particles floating in the water itself. I am not personally opposed to it, although I wonder if they have actively thought about this issue or not and how it might or might not affect the teas they make. It’s fine if you’re making black or puerh or even shuixian, but I think this water isn’t so good for, say, green tea. Too heavy.

These things aside though, they are really minor complaints. A place that uses gaiwan to serve tea? That’s an achievement in itself. The shuixian wasn’t all that bad either — it’s not a top notch tea, but it’s serviceable, and had enough aftertaste to keep things interesting.

I did a little research after coming back to figure out who they are. Turns out they are a Czech company that franchises out. No smoking in the States, but they do water pipes in the Czech Republic. (Website here). Anybody know anything more about these guys? I know I have readers from the Czech Republic.

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16 responses so far ↓

  • Anonymous // February 9, 2009 at 9:24 am | Reply

    Welcome to Wisconsin!

  • iwii // February 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Reply

    Hey Sir!
    Just to let you know that actually the Czech Republic is probably the European country with the biggest amount of tea lovers (if one is excluding countries that have their own “tea culture”, if it deserves such a word…). Not anything close to China, but enough for companies to maintain a business without struggling too much. The fact that a local tea room managed to expand to the US is impressive though.
    And aside from this, if you even get the opportunity to visit, this is a magnificent country.

  • lewperin // February 9, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Reply

    Turns out they are a Czech company that franchises out. No smoking in the States, but they do water pipes in the Czech Republic. (Website here). Anybody know anything more about these guys?

    It isn’t just Madison – they’re wiping Starbucks off the map!

    Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but we can hope…

  • Anonymous // February 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Reply

    “Dobra” means “Good” in Czech (and in Slovak, too), so the original name “Dobrá čajovňa” means “Good teahouse”.

  • Anonymous // February 11, 2009 at 3:31 am | Reply

    Here in Czech Republic, they are one of the more known teahouses. Quite good, the tea isn’t always the best(which is normal), but the atmosphere is nice. A big plus is that people who work there usually know something about tea, so if anything is of concern, they are open for discussion.

  • zhu_ni // February 12, 2009 at 7:33 am | Reply

    Hello Marshal!
    Dobra tearooms were one of first tea houses in Czech Republic. BTW tea culture is really big in here. But nowdays they are more like tea for ordinary people. They don’t know much about tea quality and ceremony. And tea is mainly old in their shops. Now there are a lot of chinese traders on the market that can offer fresh tea of high quality and also good tea wares.

  • MANDARINstea // February 13, 2009 at 11:42 am | Reply

    Eat a “rice” bowl of tea? You can not get more Chinese local tradition then that : )

  • duncoknohe // February 13, 2009 at 3:50 pm | Reply

    this guys had been founders a tea coulture in czech rep,.its big step in coutry of beer ,.from czech spread tea into anothet country etc,. water pipes are necessity,.without them each tearoom cannot survive in europe ,.because so much people dont look for a piece but entertainment usually so much loudly fun,.

  • Anonymous // February 17, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Reply

    I love it! Tea houses are great, though I have never actually been to one, I have seen pictures and I envy every minute of it! Was the tea extraordinary? How was the customer service?? I’m excited to hear more!


  • Anonymous // February 20, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Reply

    Glad you had a chance to stop in Dobra. I go there periodically to meet up with friends, being a resident of Madison.

    It’s a cozy little place, tea selection and brewing is the closest I’ve seen to real Chinese tea in the states. The hummus plate is to die for, good duo with a pot of tea and some company.

    I don’t know if you made it to the bathroom, but they have some pu-erh wrappers posted up on the walls!

  • MarshalN // February 20, 2009 at 6:23 pm | Reply

    @Ecclenser – 

    Thanks for your comment. I found it a pretty nice place, and actually ended up going twice — the second time I did indeed visit the bathroom and found some wrappers in there!

    So are you a student at Madison?

  • Anonymous // February 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Reply

    Passed thru the one in Vermont
    looked very pleasant to sit down and relax
    i got some leaf teas from them but i didnt quite enjoy that much.

  • Anonymous // March 1, 2009 at 8:39 pm | Reply

    @MarshalN – 

    Yep! I’m studying x-ray at UW-Hospital. Nothing like a great cup of tea after a day at the hospital.

  • wmiuguel // November 11, 2015 at 2:39 pm | Reply

    Well.. Dobrá ÄŒajovna, in czech, is a company that maybe could be called the founder of tea culture in the Czech Republic. My aunt remembers, that in her younger days it used to be a magnificent place (now I mean the first D.ÄŒ. in prague), but now they are.. just.. different. The original tearoom on Václavské NámÄ›stí is more like a tourist place, where you can buy a 200 cc cup of Karkade (hibiscus sudanicus, not tea) for approx. 2 dollars, which is the price of a whole 0,5 kilo bag, a sencha brewed for 10 minutes in boiling water, 2 grams of an unspecified ripe puer brewed with cold water in a 200cc gaiwan et cetera et cetera et cetera.. They try to look like a sanctuary of tea culture, althought they store their crappy puer (I like earthy puer, but this is more like a public bathroom, yuck) in the company of burning iscense sticks (yummy!!!), they try to use archaic expressions (neither very well, nor in an appropiate way) to admire random visitors, call hohins and shiboridashis “minijapan” and lots and lots of absurdities more. from the twelve tearooms I have visited in prague, the “good tearoom” (that is the meaning) was the worst.

    • wmiuguel // November 11, 2015 at 2:42 pm | Reply

      by the way, I live there, so I know what I am saying. excuse my grammar errors, please.

      • MarshalN // November 12, 2015 at 12:06 am | Reply

        I don’t doubt what you’re saying. It’s quite common for tearooms that start out quite nice (I’m thinking, for example, Tealuxe in Boston) to slowly descend into a mess. I think financial pressures is often a reason.

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