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Finding Familiarity at Burlington's Relocated Dobrá Tea

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Published November 1, 2022 at 3:53 p.m.
Updated November 2, 2022 at 10:16 a.m.


Bird's Nest Pu'er tea and a savory rice bowl at Dobrá Tea - JORDAN BARRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
  • Bird's Nest Pu'er tea and a savory rice bowl at Dobrá Tea

Dobrá Tea got me through college chemistry. A sip of yerba maté still brings me back to sitting shoeless on one of the Burlington tearoom's platforms, caffeinating and cramming for a big exam. I didn't love the subject matter, but I loved the tea.

Dobrá moved from its longtime location at 80 Church Street in January, after the building was sold. Dobrá owner Lee Meiler and her team spent six months transforming the new space at 125 South Winooski Avenue, formerly Spirit Dancer Books & Gifts, and reopened in June.

When I stepped into Dobrá's new location last week, it instantly felt familiar.

"It was important to us to bring a lot of the old Dobrá with us," Meiler said. Everything from tables to stools to kitchen equipment made the move, including the teahouse's original door — now a divider between two seating areas — and its window inserts, which are now arches going into the platform areas.

"The biggest thing for us to get used to is having light," Meiler said.

Sunlight streams into the shop's big front window and filters through the long, narrow space to the cozy, dark platforms in the back. I chose a spot in the middle and started poring over the list of more than 100 teas. The menu is organized by type — white and yellow, green, oolong, black, Pu'er, tisane and herbal, chai, chilled, and more — and by country of origin.

"If you haven't found a tea you like, you just haven't had enough tea," Meiler said with a laugh. "Tea is always very personal, so it's about finding your pleasure point."

With helpful guidance from the staff, I decided on Xiang Wei Tuo Cha ($7.25). The dark, fermented Bird's Nest Pu'er tea felt just right for fall, with mushroomy, forest-floor notes and a touch of natural sweetness. I also ordered a savory rice bowl ($10) from the short and sweet food menu, which is entirely gluten free and mostly vegan.

As I slowly sipped and then resteeped my tea — 15 to 30 seconds for each cup — I watched Dobrá fill up with individuals reading near the front window, pairs chatting quietly in the middle and small groups studying on platforms in the back. A few customers stopped in for chai or bubble tea to go.

I noticed many of the elements that make the new Dobrá feel the same as it did in its 18-year home on Church Street, from the décor to staple menu items to the gentle sounds of boiling water and clattering porcelain. But Meiler pointed out the biggest similarity I'd missed.

"The smell lets you know you're here," she said. "You can watch tension roll off people when they walk in and take that first big breath."

The original print version of this article was headlined "A New Leaf | Finding familiarity at a relocated Dobrá Tea"