Last weekend my mom came to Pittsburgh for her annual solo visit and naturally I wanted to do something fun and girly with her, just the two of us. And afternoon tea seemed like the perfect thing especially since there was a locale I had yet to try in the Pittsburgh area, the Johnston House Tea Room (it’s about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh’s city center).
The area surrounding the tea room is very much developed (er, over developed) today but a decade and more going back in time it was nothing but farmland, vast rolling acres of greenery. But don’t worry, this isn’t some “farmhouse” style afternoon tea. Upon stepping inside the building, you’re greeted by an absolutely stunning interior, one that could belong on the cover of an interior design magazine (okay, first you’re greeted by a small gift shop but that is not of importance).
Before I go any further, I do want to mention I had one major critique of the tea. Although I’ve yet to fulfill my bucket list dreams of having afternoon tea at such famous and historic spots as the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong and the Ritz-Carlton in London, I have still done a few memorable ones; my favorite hands down is the one offered at the Westin Moana Surfrider hotel on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Okay, my critique. The Johnston House served tea bag tea…at afternoon tea. If you don’t care a fig about tea, you’re probably thinking right now, “tea is tea, so what?” To me (and hopefully other tea purists), the whole point of afternoon tea is not just about the finger sandwiches or the scones or the petit fours, it’s about the tea selection, it’s about the presentation.
When we were first seated, I was a little taken aback to see Stash tea bags at the table. But then a waitress immediately came over and asked what we would like to drink. I (naively) thought, oh, this must just be the prelude for the actual tea portion since she also offered coffee and iced tea. Don’t get me wrong, Stash makes good tea but Stash tea bags were not what I expected or wanted to see at a setting as elegant as the one the Johnston House presents. Not to mention, there were only about a half dozen tea bag selections to choose from, a fraction of what was offered at another Pittsburgh locale.
Okay, so even with the “tea bag travesty” I still very much enjoyed the actual afternoon tea experience. The tower of culinary goodies was decadent (as they always are). The bottom tier had the savory items including cucumber cream cheese sandwiches, chicken salad croissant sandwich, quiche, and a tiny tart my mom said had an olive tasting filling.
My favorite part about afternoon tea might very well be the scone tier. The thing I like most about scones is that they have a very subtle yet still delicious flavor to them. They came with crème fraîche and a jam you could spread.
And then there was the tier with the most calories. There were slices of lemon poppy seed cake, chocolates featuring a whipped chocolate mousse topping, and miniature tarts. With all the sweet and savory goodies we had, naturally we took some home with us.
Minus the tea portion, everything else was lovely. Service was sweet and attentive, the ambiance just everything you envision afternoon tea to look like and have, and the food superb. Overall I liked the other two afternoon teas I’ve done in Pittsburgh more. However, it was awesome to partake in a completely new one and also one that wasn’t too far from home.
Mothers, daughters, girlfriends, afternoon tea is truly the perfect activity to do together. If you’ve never been to one, you should make plans to go.
Essential info: The price is $28 per person but this includes tax and tip. There were many children there but I’m not sure if a children’s price is offered and if it is, what that costs since the website doesn’t list prices.
The Johnston House
7041 Crider Road, Suite A| Mars, PA.| 16046
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