Dobra Tea Restaurant Review: Absolutely Delightful!

A few weeks ago, one of our interns stopped by Dobra Tea and couldn’t wait to share her experience with our readers. Dobra Tea describes itself  as a “Bohemian-style” tea house where friends may take time to unwind and bond over tea and light fare.  Each months features several musical and dance performances by local and international artists, as well as belly dancing and tarot-reading lessons. So, what should you know about Dobra Tea?

The Atmosphere: Dobra Tea describes itself as a “Bohemian-style” tea house, though one might say that its interior is more reminiscent of a Turkish tea house. Patrons have the option of either dining in the public dining area or small, raised alcoves partitioned with beaded draperies. The walls are adorned with photographs and painted in shades of coral, cool turquoise, and sunflower yellow.

Patrons have the choice of either reclining on cloud-soft benches that wrap around the length of the alcove; intimately-positioned sofas; or small cushions on the floor that encircle the table.  Traditional patterns are featured as mosaics on both tables and beneath some of the windows.

The dining area is not particularly large, but it does offer patrons the dual experience of creating a quiet, relaxing environment in which one may chat with old friends, yet further the sense of community amongst patrons. The way in which the seating is positioned allows one intimate and private conversations with friends, yet allows a broad view of the restaurant and other patrons. Outside seating has recently been made available.  Rating: 10/10

The Service: The staff at Dobra Tea are exceptionally knowledgeable about their product – quite an impressive considering their selection of over 100 teas! Our server made us feel very welcome and treated us as if we were old friends who had come for a visit. He also was able to expound at length about the history, make, and quality of each tea, and his suggestions were perfectly tailored to both my preferences and those of my friend.  Rating: 10/10

The Tea: I drank the plum tea, which featured small pieces of dried plum mixed throughout. I enjoyed its subtle fusion of sweet and sour, but the pieces of plum distracted me slightly from fully enjoying the flavor. However, I tend to not prefer any fruits  in my beverages (i.e not pieces of fruit in smoothies, no pulp, etc), so this should not pose a problem to most patrons.  

My friend drank the Rooibos Masala tea, which couples cinnamon, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, and orange peel to offer the tongue an initial sweet taste that turns into a kick that challenges even the most heat-resistant palate. The taste was subtle enough that it do not conflict with her hummus and vegetable plate, but distinct enough to leave your mouth both delighted and surprised. I returned several times later with other friends, each of whom could only say good things about their tea of choice. Rating: 10/10

The Food: Dobra Tea offers individual-sized portions of international treats like pita bread and hummus, chocolate medicine balls, fresh fruit, baklava and more. On my first visit, I tried pita Jerusalem, which are thin slices of pita coated in cinnamon – a perfect accompaniment to sweet or spicy teas and a great choice for those who prefer sweet-and-salty treats.  My friend ate a rich, lightly-seasoned hummus with air-light pita and sliced vegetables. The portions are on the smaller side, so it is best to order a plate for each member in your group. 9/10

Affordability: Since it caters to specialty tastes, Dobra Tea’s beverages are somewhat more expensive than at your local coffee shop (anywhere from $4-$8 depending on the ingredients, and then more if you order a kettle of tea versus a single cup). Tea and appetizers for two people should cost only around $25 dollars, which is quite reasonable considering the cozy atmosphere, excellent service, and wide selection of quality teas and appetizers. Rating: 9/10

In short, my experience with Dobra Tea was quite good – the teas were delicious and affordable, the service was excellent, and the atmosphere makes one feel as if one is in a Turkish tea house from hundreds of years ago. I have gone back several times with friends, and their quality of service and fare never fails to delight.

 

Contact:

http://dobrateapgh.com/menu/

 

1937 Murray Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217

412-449-9833

Monday-Saturday: 10AM – 10 PM

Sunday: 11AM – 7 PM

 

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Are You Celebrating this Year’s Chinese Dragon Boat Festival?

On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, Chinese and Taiwanese citizens celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. The origins of the festival are contested, but many will commemorate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan or Wu Zixu, who was killed for offering the king military advice. While Dragon Boat races are now a  popular sport worldwide , the original festival was used to promote a sense of community, offer entertainment, and to several famous figures in Chinese history (such as Qu Yuan).

How did Dragon Boat Racing Come to Be?

There are numerous theories and myths as to how the Dragon Boat Festival came into existence, but by far the most popular tale is that of Qu Yuan, a government official in the State of Chu. Prior to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), there were seven divided states in what is now mainland China. Qu Yuan suggested joining forces with the State of Qi in order to battle against the State of Qu, as well as fortifying the military. Many noblemen disagreed with Qu Yuan’s strategies, and Qu Yuan is believed to have in turn criticized the aristocrat Zi Lan, which subsequently led to his being exiled ( Traditional Chinese Festivals)

While in exile, he wrote numerous patriotic poems that exemplified his love for his country that would later earn him much acclaim and renown amongst Chinese citizens. On the fifth day of the fifty month in the year 278 BC, Qu Yuan was told that the State of Qin has captured his homeland(the State of Chu), so he later drowned himself in a nearby river due to the distressing news.  When the townspeople had heard of his death, fishermen took to their boats in order to find his body, and local citizens threw food into the river so that fish would leave Qu Yuan’s body intact ( Travel China Guide).

The Dragon Boat Festival is also attributed to Wu Zixu, the son of a royal tutor in the State of Chu. After overhearing rumors of rebellion, The King ordered Wu Zixu’s father to be killed, so Wu fled to the State of Wu, where he befriended Prince Guang. There, he was appointed to coordinate the King’s military stratagems, and to construct a city (now called Suzhou) that incorporated environmental and celestial harmonies. In 506 BC, after a successful capture of the Stateof Chu, he was renamed the Duke of Shen.

Wu Zixu’s good fortune began to cease after the King’s death,  and was largely distrusted b the new king, King Fuchai. Wu Zixu warned King Fuchai that he must capture the neighboring State of Yue before its king attacked the State of Wu. The king instead listed to the advisor Bo Pi, who  had been bribed by the State of Yue into fooling the king. Before he carried out his imperially-imposed death, Wu Zixu asked to  have his eyeballs placed on top of the city gates so that he could watch the State of Wu fall to the State of Yue.  His body was later thrown into a river near Suzhou. Within ten years, the King of Yue had conquered the State of Wu and King Fuchai chose to end his life due to intense shame and regret.

Despite the popularity of the tale of Qu Yuan, many still believe that the Dragon Festival is honor or Wu Zixu, who also died on the fifth day of the fifth month.  Moreover, many commemorate not only his death, but his strong love and devotion to his father and brother, both of whom were executed by order of the King of Chu. Wu Zixu’s tale is so inspiring and touching that in some parts of China, he is viewed as a  of river god called “God of the Waves” ( Beijing International).

 

How do People Celebrate the Festival in Contemporary China?

Due to Qu Yuan and Wi Zixu’s dying on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar, many commemorate their deaths with the Dragon Boat Festival. Boats are carved to have dragon heads and bodies, because dragon spirits were traditionally believed to the guardians of rivers,  Since the intense rowing mimics the fishermen’s harried search for Qu Yuan’s body, the festival simultaneously takes on an athletic, religious, and communal significance ( Traditional Chinese Festivals)

People also cook zongzi, or rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves, because it is believed that Qu Yuan’s mourners threw this into the river to feed the fish. Depending on the region, zongzi will be filled with glutinous (sticky) rice, jujube, red beans, corn, or pork. It is also popular to drink realgar wine, which a doctor has poured into the river so as to intoxicate and pacify the marine life (Traditional Chinese Festivals)

Many people will hang mugwort and calalmus leaves in their households during the Dragon Boat Festival , because their fragrance is believed to repel mosquitoes and sanitize the air. You may also find a picture of Zhong Kui, a fierce warrior, hung in homes this time of year, as his portrait is believe to scare away demons and harmful spirits ( CCTV.com). Children typically wear a five-color thread around their wrists, ankles, and neck, so as to protect them from disease. The children cannot speak to their parents while they are tying on the strings, nor can they remove the thread and toss into the river until the first summer rain has fallen. It is also popular practice for children to wear a sachet of herbs or perfume around their neck so at to protect against evil ( Travel China Guide)

 

Why Are the Boats Carved as Dragons?

Dragons are one of the most auspicious and common symbols in Chinese iconography and folklore. It is believed that every river was guarded by its own dragon spirit, who would not only affect the weather and tides, but could take the shape of several different animals, was exceptionally wise, and could bless those in his good graces ( Primary Source). Moreover, the dragon would battle with humans if he became agitated from the incessant gong and drum-beating at the festival, and would produce rainfall that ensured a plentiful harvest for celebrants ( China Now)

 

 

Where Can I Celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival in Pittsburgh?

Every year, the Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival holds a dragon boat races in mid to late September. They also feature great food, live dancing and musical performances, arts and crafts, stalls of Asian clothing, jewelry and fans, and give guests the opportunity to try rowing in one of the dragon boats. Their 2013 date has yet to be announced, but check out their website for pictures and even more information.