If you are a tea purist, especially of a particular region, Dobra is a godsend. If you have an opinion on whether pu'er tea is better as sheng or shou, which flush of Darjeeling is best, and so on, this is your spot. Matte is served in a gourd any Uruguayan would have on their shelf, and has a great bitter veggie flavor. The Turkish Cay tea is spot-on, from the curve of the glass cup to the precise depth of flavor. A Chinese blend with lapsang souchong was served in a handsome lantern pot. The tea was mostly unadorned by mellower notes, and the smokiness of the leaves pushed the flavor in the direction of a good cigar. A "Kashmir blend" of green, black, and oolong teas had a striking orange-yellow color. Hints of clove and cinnamon were subtle enough that you could taste the complexities of the blend. Snacks are quite good, with savory plates running Middle Eastern, and some good in-house sweets.
Tea has not always been calming. The traditional Japanese tea ceremony was a tenser affair than the Candy Crowley debate. But Portland has lucked into two very good teahouses, which soothe in very different ways: Dobra bringing international ritual to Maine, and Homegrown's one-of-a-kind spirit very much living up to its name.
DOBRA TEA | 151 Middle St, Portland | Mon-Wed 11 am-9 pm, Thurs-Sun 11 am-10 pm | 207.210.6566 |dobrateame.com
HOMEGROWN HERB AND TEA | 195 Congress St, Portland | Tues-Fri noon-7 pm, Sat noon-5 pm | 207.774.3484 | homegrownherbandtea.com