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Two for Tea?

Side Dishes: Another Space for Sipping


Published April 9, 2008 at 5:00 a.m.

The demilitarized zone that used to be Burlington's Army Navy store is in the midst of a dramatic transformation. The location used to be B-town's primary source for butterfly knives and mace, but its new incarnation - as Sapa's Coffee & Tea - offers customers "bubble tea," Birnn truffles and demitasse cups filled with strong coffee.

Owner Khanh Tran, who says that the café will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. beginning later this month, has never owned a food-related business before; her last two jobs were at a bank and a hospital. But she decided to try brewing when she realized there was nowhere in the area to get Vietnamese-style coffee. In addition, she plans to carry around 50 varieties of loose-leaf tea.

Asked about her business's proximity to the well-established Dobrá Tea, Tran says, "I think that the style is different, definitely," noting that Vietnam is "a country of tea."

How do the folks at Dobrá feel about the competition? Manager Andrew Snavely says that both the staffers and customers are curious about Sapa's. "I think that it's a little close by," he admits, "but mixing coffee and tea under the same roof is not the same experience; it's not a tea room. The smell of coffee really overpowers the aroma of the tea."

In any case, Snavely's not worried: "We're pretty full all day, every day. We're outgrowing our space." Plus, he's pretty sure that Dobrá's "extras" will keep 'em coming back, including the eclectic light fare, an ever-growing selection of chocolates and pastries, and events such as musical performances and "tea classes."