Now this place was unexpected. Not just unexpected because I never knew that there was a coffeehouse in this building since June. Rather, it was an unexpected pleasure because of how unassuming the facade of the building is. You see, Oxford Hall is known around here for being an international store specializing in Celtic imports from the UK. It’s a quiet little specialty shop located across the street from Coakley’s pub, at the corner of Third Street and Bridge Street (the main street running through New Cumberland.
A lot of Central PA folk know exactly where Coakley’s is, but don’t know much about the even more authentically Irish establishment right in the next block. The lack of flashy signs and obvious tourist-trap style draws keeps Oxford Hall quite out of the limelight. Until now of course.
The coffeehouse portion of Oxford Hall is tucked away in the back, away from the bustle of the main shop. It certainly bears little resemblance to the The lady in charge of the shop told me that it was designed to resemble the kind of cafe in Galway, Ireland where students come to drink coffee and tea and to socialize, and that it wasn’t like the “frou-frou” (her words) coffeehouses here in the US like Starbucks. When she had the courage to criticize our proudest of hipster institutions, it got me intrigued.
When I ordered my coffee, I was surprised to see that they only had one coffee option. It was decent to be sure; they keep their half-and-half creamer constantly refrigerated, which earned some big brownie points as well. I was honestly starting to feel a slight bit underwhelmed though, when the woman behind the counter interjected that coffee is not their actual specialty here; it was in fact tea. When I turned around, I felt kind of dumb. An entire wall (which I had not previously noticed) was packed from floor to ceiling with glittering glass bottles of specialty teas and tea blends. They pointed me towards a seasonal blend called “Nutcracker Sweet.” The smell of it alone knocked me back to Christmas Day. The first sip proved that my nose was on to something special. A very knowledgeable girl from Messiah College showed me around their hall of teas. She clearly knew what she was talking about, dancing quickly from tea to tea and explaining some of their custom blends.
I took the rest of my tea home, sipping in on the ride back to Harrisburg, wondering how I never noticed this place before! As teahouses and coffeehouses continue to merge, I have a feeling that I’ll be reviewing more of these delightful hybrids (and maybe some not-so-delightful ones). My advice is this. If you’re an Irish or Scottish expatriate looking for an authentic island of home here in the States, this is the place to be. If you are a foodie looking to sample some unique and fresh gourmet tea, this is definitely the place to be. Stay tuned for more!