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Happy Hookah?

Local Matters


Published July 13, 2005 at 6:02 p.m.

Visitors to downtown Burlington can now catch a whiff of Middle Eastern culture, or even try a puff for themselves. Dobrá Tea, the Czech-owned tearoom at Church and Bank streets, has started offering its customers shisha, a sweetened Middle Eastern tobacco that's smoked from a hookah. Shisha, which refers to both the tobacco and the traditional water pipe itself, smells more like incense than cigarette smoke. The tobacco is not lit directly but heated with a lump of charcoal. The water filters out much of its tar and nicotine. And unlike cigarette smoke, shisha is sipped slowly and only partially inhaled.

Dobra Tea manager Andrew Snavely recently traveled to the Czech Republic, where he visited traditional tearooms. He explains that Dobrá serves a Lebanese brand of tobacco that comes in several flavors: apple, coconut, mint, melon and banana. And similar to the Czech tea houses he visited, Dobrá serves shisha with a traditional tea known as "rive cay." The shisha costs $10, or $13 with a pot of rive cay.

Shisha culture, pervasive throughout Europe and the Middle East, has only recently caught on in the United States. But unlike the customers of those dark, mysterious tearooms, Vermont shisha smokers must still abide by state law and do all their puffing outdoors.