Something different brewing at Marlene’s Tea and Cakes

A typical assortment of sweets and fruit for the tea table.
A typical assortment of sweets and fruit for the tea table.
(Karen Billing)

Marlene Spawton had always loved afternoon teas, but she never realized just how special they could be until she opened her own tea room. At Marlene’s Tea and Cakes near Santaluz, Spawton likes watching her customers’ enjoyment grow over soothing midday cups of tea — pinkies out or not.

“It’s therapy for the soul,” Spawton said “People are so happy by the time they leave, I can’t believe how it affects people.”

Marlene Spawton of Marlene’s Tea and Cakes.
Marlene Spawton of Marlene’s Tea and Cakes.
(Karen Billing)

Before opening Marlene’s, Spawton was in a very different line of work — she was a software engineer. On the side, she loved baking “pretty little desserts” and made fancy custom cookies for seven years — sugar cookies in all shapes and sizes, decorated meticulously for special occasions like baby showers, birthdays and weddings.

Spawton took her love and passion for pretty things and opened Marlene’s Tea and Cakes in January 2014.

Her tea room has a clean, modern look with bright bouquets of fresh flowers at every table and just a touch of antique in the china.

She wanted Marlene’s to be different. She didn’t want it to be associated with an era or a country — just to be a place for people who enjoy tea to have a complete experience.

“All of your senses are pretty much satisfied,” Spawton said of the comfortable setting, relaxing music, fragrant teas and tasty food. General Manager Jay Dotson dotes on guests and makes sure everything is right and pleasing.

“Everyone loves Jay,” Spawton said. “I consider him a partner, because he treats the place like it’s his own and takes so much care with customers.”

He even wears gloves when he’s spreading white tablecloths on the tables, ensuring there are no fingerprints.

Marlene’s offers two daily sittings for tea, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Reservations are required. The menu rotates monthly, but mini beef Wellingtons are always served.

Tea comes with five savory items, fruit and scones with clotted cream, and four desserts artistically crafted by Marlene’s team of pastry chefs.

For June, the savory items include a potato-stuffed Shaneshky, a soft house-made bun topped with potato, Gruyere cheese, bacon and blue cheese mascarpone, and red onion confit quiche. June’s dessert dishes include Banofee pie (a mini banana cream pie with caramel) and a lemon almond petit four filled with lemon cream mousse and topped with a flower.

The most popular teas on the menu are Mango n’ Friends, a herbal fruit tea; Harney and Sons’ fragrant Paris black tea, and the crème caramel rooibus tea.

Along with tea, guests are served refreshing ice water that has been infused with cucumber, strawberries and watermelon.

“People come in here always happy because they love afternoon tea, and they are grateful for us and what we do,” said Spawton.

Afternoon tea is $29.95 per person and Marlene’s can accommodate vegetarian and gluten-free needs. For information or reservations, visit marlenesteaandcakes.com or call 858-756-4320. The tea room is at 14677 Via Bettona, San Diego, 92127.


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