Tea or coffee? That debate can stir up quite a tempest, but it’s one that tea lover Joe Passalaqua aims to diffuse at his new Dobrá Tea shop in the Village of West Greenville. “I see Dobrá Tea as an experience,” Passalaqua says. “Tea begs a person to take a load off and get away from their day for a little bit.” That solace is what drew him to frequent the Dobrá location in downtown Asheville, one of the many cities in which he has lived. Dobrá (Czech for “good”), with 30 locations across central Europe and eight shops in the States, branched out from the original Dobrá Tearoom, established in Prague in 1993.
Passalaqua was living in Charlotte and looking to quit the corporate world after 25 years in international trade when he began to research the idea of opening a tea shop. “I wanted to give back to people,” he recalls. “I’m an international kind of a guy, so anything that’s international, like tea, is going to call to me.”
When he walked into the building at the corner of Pendleton Street and Perry Avenue last winter, Joe knew that Greenville was the place for Dobrá Tea. “I was amazed by the space,” he exclaims. “And I sure don’t mind being in the tallest building on the main corner.”
Sunlight warms the bistro tables by the front windows, while cozy booths and raised platforms inspired by Japanese tatami rooms occupy the back of the space. Servers present you with the 78-page tea menu, arranged by country, and the list of savory and sweet food items, and then leave you with a small silver bell to ponder in peace. When you’re ready to order, just ring.
There’s a ritual here, one that invites meditation. Teas are sourced directly from their regions of origin, and each type of tea service is steeped in tradition. A tall, square pot holds flavored tea like Earl Grey, plum, or vanilla, while a white porcelain gaiwan, a lidded bowl without handles, is the vessel of choice for green Chinese teas. Ceramic pots made for Dobrá in Prague contain organic herbal blends, known as tisanes. “You could say there’s a tea for every mood,” observes Passalaqua. “And there’s a different story behind how each tea is made.”
Joe finds joy in connecting with his customers through tea. “I want people to feel the magic I felt in my first time at Dobrá. You come in and relax for a while, you strike up a conversation with a stranger . . . I figure if I can just do something nice and be around nice people, I’ve won the prize at this point.”
Cha Tou Shou Cha A type of pu-erh tea from the Yunnan province of China, Cha Tou Shou Cha is made with nutrient-rich
nuggets left from the fermentation of
another shou pu-erh. Linger over this brew, whose bold taste delights, infusion
Osmanthus Green (Gui Hua Cha) This
citrus-scented Chinese blend made with
tiny osmanthus blossoms is the tea that turned Passalaqua into a lifelong fan.
Rooibos Also called Redbush, the
South African herbal tea boasts a slightly
fruity flavor that is great straight, chilled,
or enhanced with masala or cinnamon.
Ayurvedic Kitchari This mixture of mung dal and basmati rice is a staple in the Ayurvedic diet. Order it with coconut oil or try the non-vegan alternative by adding ghee.
Tempeh Banh Mi Dobrá’s version of this Vietnamese sandwich contains Smiling
Hara tempeh, sriracha mayo, cucumber, cilantro, and pickled daikon radish and
carrots on gluten-free, vegan bread from Le Petit Croissant.
Amaranth Super Seed Cookie Passalaqua calls this sweet “a vegan health bar on steroids,” great for nibbling with your morning tea.
Dobrá Tea, 1278 Pendleton St, Greenville, dobrateasc.com