Arnold’s Tea is not your mother’s tea shop. No fine floral china pots or lace. Instead, you’ll find a large welcoming modern space. Exposed brick, reclaimed wood floors a cozy bright celadon couch in front of a gas fireplace. Hot and cold tea drinks, a breakfast and lunch menu and an assortment of loose teas and accessories to recreate your favorite brew at home are found within the warm surroundings. It is urban coffee space meets tea shop, exactly the feel Verna Arnold wanted to bring to Pittsburgh.
Our Northside tour guests have been enjoying this stop for the past nine months and word is spreading through the city of this welcoming neighborhood spot. Opened March of 2015 in an East Ohio Street storefront that once housed a paint store, the shop has become a go to place for breakfast and lunch as well at the myriad of hot and cold tea selections. Verna serves coffee as an “alternative beverage”.
Starting as an early childhood teacher in a Head Start classroom, Ms. Arnold worked in the Pittsburgh Public Schools until her retirement. With the exception of two years at Allegheny K-5, she taught at and eventually became the principal of Fort Pitt Elementary in Garfield. After her days as a school administrator, in her “retirement”, she worked for Pearson Publishing throughout the Midwest guiding high schools through the process of accommodating to common core standards. Over the years, Verna explored the world traveling with a good friend who loved tea. Everywhere they went, the pair sought out tea houses and salons. Verna noted the differences in tea consumption throughout the world in China or England and in other US metropolises, such as Chicago. There was a definite tea culture elsewhere that she longed to bring to Pittsburgh. In Chicago she enjoyed visiting Argo Tea, a chain of shops that aimed to be the Starbucks of tea in urban settings.
The “Allegheny City” spot turned out to be a perfect location. Working with an architect, Verna found, to her delight, hardwood flooring under layers of paint and linoleum and they were able to expose a brick wall. High and low tables plus the comfortable couch area within the artfully decorated shop invites a steady pace of patrons to sit down and enjoy brewed tea along with savory and sweet meals and snacks. Morning hours, customers can find breakfast sandwiches and pastries. Lunchtime brings fresh house made soups, salads and sandwiches including vegetarian options. The choices of teas and tisanes occupy three columns of a dedicated chalkboard menu and range from standard green, black and white teas to flavored blends and specialty hot and cold tea drinks.
Like other neighborhood beverage establishments, it has become a “home office” for many of “the regulars: Local businesses and hospitals hold meetings and events at the shop. Arnold’s hosted showers, neighborhood meetings, mindfulness classes and tea yoga in its short existence. Verna enjoys providing tea education classes to groups and enlightens our tour guests when we visit. We sample tea along with a bite of a house made sandwich. However, if Verna is venturing into the kitchen to experiment with new menu combinations, she sometimes will test the savory bites with our crowd. Come along with us and meet Verna in person on our Northside Tour.