1 Pleasant Street, Cohasset
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express
When the temperatures begin to fall, appreciation grows for afternoon tea, that midday ritual of finger sandwiches, scones, and steaming teacups regarded as fancy and very English.
At Boston hotels, the posh affair might include a harpist and gilt décor. In Cohasset, Windsor Tea Shop & Tea Room operates on more of a country cottage vibe. Gone are the uniformed waiters and the pastries topped with edible gold leaf. At this coastal town retreat, the dress code is proper but casual, the atmosphere relaxed and informal. And, thankfully, the big-city prices are left behind as well.
In addition to the traditional offerings of afternoon tea, there are soups, sandwiches, quiches, and various desserts.
The Duchess of Windsor ($22) included a pot of tea, sandwiches, and a savory and sweets of the day. The chicken salad sandwich was good but not outstanding, while the cucumber sandwich had nice crisp slices of cucumber and a hint of mint. Sweet pumpkin bread sandwiched with cream cheese and orange marmalade was lightly spiced and refreshingly different.
The cranberry and citrus scone, almost crumbly but not dry, paired well with the clotted cream and house lemon curd, which had a wonderfully smooth flavor and was not too tart. Chocolate and coconut made the other scone more moist than the usual, so it didn’t need any accompaniments. The cream and curd arrived in disposable plastic condiment cups, in contrast to the lovely painted china everything else was served in.
The plain shortbread was nicely buttery and rich. Two small discs of chocolate on the plate looked like baking chocolate chips, but bites revealed beautiful, complex flavors.
Owner Judy McColgan sells them in the shop in front ($3 a bar), and said the white chocolate is infused with chamomile and honey, and the dark chocolate with Arabica espresso.
The final component, a slice of crustless mushroom quiche, was good and light, but was more like a frittata. One of my friends ordered the quiche as an entrée with a salad of mixed greens ($11). She enjoyed it, but pointed out there were few mushrooms.
A grilled cheddar sandwich with Granny Smith apple slices and onion ($7) was done well, with melty cheese and toasted bread. It’s also available with tomato and bacon instead of the apple and onion.
An even better option is the Lady Beth panini ($9), which had chicken salad and cheddar with cranberry sauce pressed between herbed focaccia slices. It was delicious and similar to the grilled cheddar, though my friend and fellow cranberry-lover agreed the sandwich could have used more cranberry sauce.
For dessert, my table shared the French silk torte ($3), chocolate cake and chocolate mousse with whipped cream in a goblet. We found it mediocre and flat, lacking dimension that could have come with a more intense or more bitter chocolate.
Teas are included in the price of an afternoon tea, but otherwise cost $4 a pot, and you can choose from the menu selection or one of the many blends in the shop. The Paris blend consists of black teas with a lemony bergamot, and everyone liked it, with one friend calling it “very delicate.” Nobody liked the maple black tea, which was weak in maple flavor and called “too perfumey” by my party.
The Courtship Tea, the other favorite at our table, is a black blend with crystallized ginger, which was delightfully subtle. The tea sold in a tin ($15 for three ounces) that bills it as “a romantic blend for lords & ladies.”
The blend was created by Donna and Ron Lasko, of Cape Cod, who will give the presentation at Windsor’s ninth Victorian Christmas Tea event next Sunday at 1 p.m. Reservations are required and tickets cost $30 and include afternoon tea. The couple will discuss Charles Dickens and the 200th anniversary of his birth, and display vintage dolls, Advent calendars, and other Victorian items.
McColgan opened the tea room and shop in Cohasset in 2004. Previous incarnations in Hanover and North Scituate operated just as tea shops. The Cohasset location seats 24, and is decorated with paintings by local artists and quilts made by McColgan’s late mother.
McColgan decided to open a tea room when her daughter, for whom the Lady Beth panini is named, was studying culinary arts at Massasoit Community College. After her daughter had a baby and could no longer do the cooking, McColgan took over. “I do everything here,” she said.
Windsor also offers a children’s tea ($9) – a cucumber or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, tea or hot chocolate, a scone, and the mini-sweet of the day. There are gluten-free menu items like the crustless quiche, soups, macaroons, and egg salad.
McColgan admits she didn’t always like tea. “My husband’s Irish, and I grew up in an Italian family where coffee and espresso were served after dinner,” she said. A childhood sampling of tea did not impress her.
Years later, she tried preparing tea “the proper way,” using spring water, measuring the leaves, and timing the steeping. It was a revelation, she said. “I realized how delicious it was.”