It feels like a bit of a cheat to review a coffee shop rather than a full restaurant, but since Té Café is generally vegetarian, it’s worth pointing out this quiet Squirrel Hill gem and its tasty menu. Té Café’s sunny, art-lined walls, classical radio (and the occasional WYEP), outstanding tea selection (100 varieties) and very knowledgeable staff make it a delightful place to spend the afternoon.
Owners Sue and Terry can describe every tea, all of which are sold by the pot ($3-$4) or loose to go. Unsure whether the white chocolate mousse black tea is chocolatey enough, or if the dragonwell is jasmine-y enough? You can smell the cannisters. It’s also heaven for tea paraphernalia fetishists. Infusers of all sizes and shapes, books, and pots line the shelves. The café consists of a half dozen brushed-steel tables, two small couches and a long cushioned bench, replete with outlets. (Already 61C pales in comparison.) And did I mention the free wi-fi?
The clientele is generally quiet—mostly grad students with laptops—but there are plenty of chatty friends and weekend Scrabble players. On a typical afternoon, I overheard conversations about segmentation faults, progesterone levels, and Trinidadian politics. Sue, who’s generally there weekday afternoons, is trusting and unhurried, bringing pots to your table and letting you pay at your leisure.
Seven hot teas are ready every day, three of which change daily: one black, herbal, and green. Two iced teas are brewed all day, along with one rotating flavor. All of the other teas are available by the pot, complete with hourglass timer and dish for steeped leaves. There are six varieties of hot chocolate (including cardamom, Mexican, and peppermint). Most of the food is the usual coffeeshop fare — H&H bagels, scones, cookies, and biscotti. Watch out for the white chocolate scone with key lime icing — it’s far sweeter than even my strong sweet tooth can handle. However, the owners also prepare an assortment of worldly sandwiches and spreads and daily Irish oatmeal.
Stu’s Special ($4.50)
Thick pita wedges served with an intensely flavored medley of spreads: pistachio pesto, sundried tomato & white beans, and olive tapenade. The vivid spreads are complemented by the striped platter. The tapenade has a concentrated olive flavor, salty and tangy, which the more mellow sundried tomato spread balances nicely. The pistachio pesto is somewhat bitter when eaten with the other two, but it makes a nice counterpoint.
Pacific Pita ($5.50) This generously stuffed pita (well, closer to a tortilla) has pistachio pesto, imported swiss cheese, greens, avocado, mandarin oranges, pistachios. It’s the perfect marriage of salty and sweet with just the right proportion of ingredients: The pistachio pesto’s salty tang is balanced by the sweetness of the oranges. It’s difficult to eat gracefully, though, with all that mesclun hanging out, so perhaps avoid it on a first date. Sesame crackers are piled on the side: Apparently, when Munch reviewed them, he criticized the sandwiches for not coming with a side of chips, so they added the sesame crackers.
Irish Oatmeal ($3.75)
Available all day from a cast-iron pressure cooker on the counter. Creamy irish oats (perhaps a little on the mushy side, and nothing like the amazingly articulated porridge at Gypsy Cafe, but still quite yummy). They add brown sugar, raisins, walnuts, and granola to your liking on the spot. (I know, granola? But makes for a nice mild crunch.)
Té Café’s coffee is wicked strong and tasty. It’s an organic Columbian artisan brand (Blue Bottle Coffee), brewed on demand by running hot water through a filter full of grounds. So, the coffee is never bitter. Soy and rice milk are available for adding to tea, coffee, and oatmeal at no extra charge.
Overall, it’s a bit pricey, but it’s worth it for the atmosphere and for supporting a fledgling tea shop.
* Pacific Pita
* Stu’s Special
* White chocolate mousse (black tea)
* Pear rooibos (red tea)
* Vanilla chai (black tea)
* Peach apricot (white tea)
* Cardamom hot chocolate