I’m in Madison, Wisconsin, and while I walked around town today, I came across a tea room. It’s called Dobra Tea. I never let a tea room go by without at least taking a peek, and since they looked pretty ok from the outside, I decided to check it out.
I ended up spending a little time there. Even though I was in a bit of a rush, I wanted to try some tea, as they looked rather well managed, with at least a few heads screwed on straight. That can’t always be said about other tea places in this country. When I asked if they do take out tea, their answer was “only loose leaf that you can bring home and brew yourself”. Great, that means no carry out cups…. I like places that don’t compromise too much.
So I plucked myself down for a gaiwan of shuixian.
The gaiwan they used was a little too large for shuixian for one person, but then, I should’ve specified for a smaller gaiwan. The use of the little heating thing for water is rather interesting. Underneath is a tea light, which, admittedly, gives off some heat, but I suspect it’s not really enough to keep the water very hot for very long. If you stick around for a while and take some time between brews, your water can cool substantially. I think that happened to the people sitting next to me, who were three people sharing one pot (in a largish yixing). Their water container was much larger than mine, and I think a little tea light really isn’t going to do much other than having a placebo effect of keeping the water warm.
It is also interesting becuase I flipped over the kettle to take a look inside. It is obvious that they are either using water of a very high mineral content, or, perhaps, that people let the water burn for a long time without using it. I am guessing the latter, because there is obvious scale buildup in the kettles, and there was mineral particles floating in the water itself. I am not personally opposed to it, although I wonder if they have actively thought about this issue or not and how it might or might not affect the teas they make. It’s fine if you’re making black or puerh or even shuixian, but I think this water isn’t so good for, say, green tea. Too heavy.
These things aside though, they are really minor complaints. A place that uses gaiwan to serve tea? That’s an achievement in itself. The shuixian wasn’t all that bad either — it’s not a top notch tea, but it’s serviceable, and had enough aftertaste to keep things interesting.
I did a little research after coming back to figure out who they are. Turns out they are a Czech company that franchises out. No smoking in the States, but they do water pipes in the Czech Republic. (Website here). Anybody know anything more about these guys? I know I have readers from the Czech Republic.