Dining out on High Tea History At the Omni William Penn Hotel, Pittsburgh


In this chapter will be added the places you can Dine Out with History on Afternoon or High Tea. I have collected several descriptions of the origins of Afternoon or High Tea from different sources. As far back as 1662, Portuguese Catherine of Braganza introduced tea taking in Britain. A special tea time is said to be mentioned in one of Jane Austen’s unpublished books in the early 1800’s.

In the 1860’s it was common for those in Britain to have two meals a day, breakfast and a dinner at 8 o’clock. Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford may have been a sensitive lady, but noticed that she was feeling a deep fatigue by four in the afternoon. She requested that a tray of tea, bread, butter and cakes be delivered to her room. Tea time grew to become a widespread tradition in its many forms.

As a social event, it is now generally thought of as a women’s celebration of tradition, but in the past, men loved the pomp of the High Tea as well.

High tea, according to Wikepedia, was also called Meat Tea and became a tradition with workers of middle to upper classes in the 1800’s. After work, between 4 and 6 pm, a hot dish would be served, with cakes and bread, butter and jam.

I have noticed that the terms High tea and Afternoon Tea are sometimes used interchangeably.

Afternoon or High Tea was, and continues to be served and enjoyed in many fine dining establishments. It is a versatile tradition that has changed forms and can even be taken in a picnic basket.Some fine dining establishments are now creating special Afternoon Teas for men and daughters or sons on Father’s Day.

The following website gives interesting facts about the history of tea taking and the etiquette to follow. http://www.afternoontoremember.com/learn/etiquette

High Tea at Pittsburgh’s Omni William Penn in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

The High Tea Menu
The High Tea Menu
The Tea Box and a simple elegant tea service against a lobby dripping with history
The Tea Box and a simple elegant tea service against a lobby dripping with history

Against the crystal chandelier above, my plain white teacup gained elegance. I was seated in a balcony overlooking the lobby in the Palm Court and against the gracefully aged style of the lobby, trendy young people milled along with parents and fancifully dressed children. My date for High Tea was late, as he enthusiastically cycled through the trails of Pittsburgh. I enjoyed the experience with my own company and spoke to my imaginary companion across the table.

My server brought a fine wooden box and opened the lid to a treasure chest of small glass bottles of loose tea. I chose Earl Grey to take me on my travels back in High Tea Time.

He added the tea to the pot and I let it steep. I poured my cup and after one sip, I felt my cares slip away into the tea leaves.

High Tea has long been a tradition at the the William Penn Hotel (now a part of the Omni chain.) Their elegant dining room speaks of the rich history of the hotel. Built by industrialist, Henry Frick in 1916 it was considered huge with 1000 guest rooms that boasted amenities such as electric lights and a bath in each room. In 1929, 600 rooms were added, making it the second largest hotel in the world. This hotel has maintained the luxury and romance of the past in a way that feels elegant but airy and enticing. During WW 1, many of America’s well known bands appeared in the ballroom and Lawrence Welk’s performances were enhanced by bubbles that came from a machine created by engineers that worked for the hotel.

The Omni William Penn offers three kinds of tea service on their menu:

The Mad Hatter Tea, is a menu geared to under fifteen year old youngsters.

Hot Cocoa, Milk, Vanilla Rooibos Tea, Peanut Butter and Jam, Nutella and Jam Sandwiches, MiniBagel with Cream Cheese and Cupcakes

Royal Tea offers:  Champagne Cocktail,Mimosa, Kir Royal, a Sandwich Presentation, Petite Fours, Mousse, Macaroons

VictorianTea Service arrived to compliment my tea. I had a presentation of tiny sandwiches, switched to fruit, and finished with the dainty, bite sized pastries and tiny scones, fresh from the oven.  Small pieces of miniature three layer velvet cake, macaroons in pastels, round chocolates stuffed with a creamy mixture, and two strawberry parfaits in small cups topped with fruit. I will let the pictures tell the story of the heavenly tastes. 

High Tea service at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
High Tea service at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.


As I sipped on a fine tea and ate delicacies, I was reminded of – no – I was experiencing one special hour in a time when the clock ticked slowly reminding us that each minute and bite counts.


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