Hallam attracts visitors from Australia, Germany, England, Spain, Sweden, Holland and Switzerland – for tea.
Sitting atop a hill on West Market Street, The Front Porch Tea Room is known internationally for its ambiance and fare, thanks to teamap.com . The site, powered by Adagio Teas, ranks tea rooms by user reviews. As of March 1, Front Porch was ranked No. 1 in Pennsylvania.
Such acclaim is thanks to the work of Bonnie Helm, who initially wanted to start a restaurant in York County.
"I was in sales for 35 years and it's called burnout," Helm said.
About 15 years ago, as she was waiting for pieces to come together opening a restaurant, tenants on the other side of her Victorian home moved out. A friend called and offered her carpet. Another friend offered her furniture from a closed restaurant. And then Helm found wallpaper at Ollie's that matched perfectly, she said. The tea room was born.
Visiting on a recent Saturday, the house was well decorated for Easter. There is a lot for parking behind the home, but I missed that memo, parked on the street and got a healthy walk up the hill.
Inside, seating is spread out over a couple rooms, in addition to wares on tables and on walls for sale. Items range from jewelry to home decor and teas. Patrons are invited to browse the wares, which are also available on the second floor.
Reservations must be made in advance. So by the time I arrived, every table included a name for seating.
Upon making reservations you must also choose the type of tea you prefer – High Tea ($23), Breakfast Tea ($18.95), Dessert Tea ($14.95) or another special event. Events are listed on Front Porch's website and range from special dinners (next up is Chicken and Waffles on March 27, $11.95) to American Girl Doll teas (March 23 and 24, $18.95) and gourmet breakfasts (every other Saturday, $18.95).
The breakfasts have become very popular, Helm said. The menu includes tea (of course), orange juice, muffins and scones, The Front Porch Egg Strata – eggs, cream, bread, sausage, bacon, ham, mushrooms, green onions and seven cheeses topped with Corn Flakes in melted butter -- and Caramel Soaked French Toast.
The particular Saturday I visited was not a gourmet breakfast day, so I opted for High Tea, a five-course meal.
The house salad, which was plated at the table before I arrived, was a standout – a sweet and savory combination topped with poppyseed dressing.
Each table is invited to pick a tea from an extensive list categorized by black, green and decaf. I went with Apple Strudel to start, which arrived a few minutes later in a mint green with white polka dots pot, topped by a cozy to keep it warm.
The tea, with hints of cinnamon, complemented the next course – scones served with cool clotted cream.
The scones rotate, but on this Saturday, one was cranberry and white chocolate chip; another one chocolate.
The soup menu also rotates. I picked a vegetable tortellini, which arrived in a large bowl chock full of mixed veggies.
Three dainty finger sandwiches make the fourth course -- one of my favorites was in a heart shape. All of them were crust-free.
By this point, I had downed one pot of tea, and could pick another. So I went with caramel cream to complement the sea salt caramel cake I ordered for dessert. Caramel syrup and whipped cream topped the sweet cake. Just like the soup, I could pick dessert, which also rotates.
The menu never gets stale here. And just about monthly the decorations change, too. So it's no wonder people continue to come back. Helm said one woman from England has returned multiple times. Now that's a high compliment to this eastern York County tea room.
The Front Porch Tea Room
Location: 25 W. Market St., Hallam
Jess' pick: High Tea, $23
Hours: Open Wednesday through Saturday and special events Sunday; call for reservations
Price range: $14.95, Dessert Tea; $23, High Tea
Accepts: Cash and credit
Kid's menu: For special events, e.g. American Girl Doll Tea, Teddy Bear Tea. Otherwise, children younger than 5 not permitted
Details: Call 717-755-7510 or visit frontporchtearoom.com. All reservations require a credit card confirmation. Any cancellations or change in number to party require 24 hours advance notice. Tea room is handicap accessible, but second-floor bathroom is not.