If you enjoy traveling, it doesn’t hurt to have a few recommendations to consult (especially if you plan on trying new teahouses and cafes). Whenever I visit a new place, I keep my eyes peeled for the best places to sample new teas. The following three venues are definitely worth looking into if you happen to be in Burlington, Vermont; Chicago; or Santa Monica. These are three of my favorite teahouses and cafes of all time.
Dobra Tea in Burlington, VT
Some of us are so mad about tea that we might as well be characters straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Dobra Tea, located in Burlington, Vermont, is the place where all of Burlington’s mad hatters go. You don’t even have to worry about finding mice in your tea cups. Dobra Tea is located right off Burlington’s famous Church Street and is open 12 hours a day.
Don’t expect to have a sip of Earl Grey, tip your hat, and leave – British tea is only one of the flavors Dobra can boast about. Dobra Tea provides an excellent environment to peacefully drink one of China’s “five famous green teas” – Huang Shan Mao Feng (downy tips from the Yellow Mountains), Long Jing (Tiger Spring), Bi Luo Chun “Tai Hu” (blue-green spirals of spring from Tai Lake), Putuo Fo Cha (the Buddha’s Tea), and Liu’an Guapian (water melon seeds).
If you’re like me, you might try the Pearl tea because the idea of little pearl droplets falling down your throat is too strange to resist. If you can’t decide what kind of tea you want, have a cup of miso soup and check out the shop’s interior – designed and manufactured in the Czech Republic.
If you plan to visit Russian Tea Time, it’s a requirement that you are either a great tea enthusiast or open to trying new things. Why? Russian Tea Time provides a fine dining experience for the steep price of $8 for a bowl of borscht (Russian soup). Of course, you don’t have to get a bowl of borscht. You can get something even more expensive. I felt comfortable eating there with sneakers on, but my friend felt uneasy the whole time. We had just finished visiting the Chicago Art Institute (which is right across the street on Michigan Avenue near East Adams) and felt a need to drink some flowery tea, despite our college student appearances. We are lucky that we got out of the Art Institute around 2:00 PM because the tea service was only available from 2:30 to 4:30 PM. We had the white peony tea and it was quite delicious. I would love to get a hold of some white peony tea to brew in my own home.
Café Unurban in Santa Monica, CA
I think this is my favorite cafe of all time (meaning, if I lived in Paris during the 19th Century, I would still consider this my favorite cafe of all time!). The only aspect I have to complain about is its name – why “Unurban”? It is located in the heart of Santa Monica on Urban Street, after all. Perhaps the owners like being contrary for the sake of being contrary – I can appreciate that!
If you happen to walk down Pico near 30th Street on a Sunday afternoon, chances are that you will hear vaudeville melodies issuing from the open front entrance. When you order a cup of tea, everyone in the audience might look at you for a few seconds – it’s the way the cafe is arranged – but you will get over it. If you don’t want to feel uncomfortable, look at the handmade goods resting on the shelves above the bistro table. Ask the barista for the official Cafe Unurban card offering a list of weekly events, including poetry readings and a movie night.
Fans of old Gershwin standards will be tickled pink to hear a version of Old Man River, or Old Man Bundy, if you are familiar with the street in West Los Angeles. This is an amazing locale where the young and old mix – where classic informs hipster. I am not much of a coffee drinker, but have really enjoyed their wild berry tea. They also have a ginger elixir tea that is very invigorating.