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Santa Monica’s Tudor House to Serve its Last Cup of Tea  


By Melonie Magruder
Staff Writer

May 22, 2012 -- The Tudor House, Santa Monica's purveyor of British comestibles, will be closing its doors after nearly 50 years. Like many other “Mom and Pop”-type shops Downtown, the tearoom is caving to the fiscal realities of recession-weary customers and rising rents.

The “British center of Southern California,” Tudor House has been offering breakfast, lunch and afternoon teas from its current location on 2nd Street for some 20 years and has seen three sets of owners.

Photo of Tudor House owners
Lee Morton and Teresa Dulley at Tudor House (Photos by Melonie Magruder)

Current proprietor Teresa Dulley has been on duty for 13 of those years, serving Welsh rarebit and Cornish pasties, finger sandwiches, clotted cream with scones and proper English tea to a community of British ex-pats who will be sorely pressed to find the same Anglo hospitality anywhere else nearby.

“We put a lot into remodeling this place,” Dulley said. “But now, people don’t have the money to spend for imported biscuits and tea sets. I understand. I don’t plan on retiring, but it will be doing something less frantic. I’m too old to re-do this whole thing someplace else.”

The tearoom offers a dozen or so square breakfast tables with crisp, white, linen tablecloths and old Currier and Ives-type prints on the wall. Cheerful, dusky-rose lampshades light up tabletops and brightly patterned tea cozies are propped on walnut hutches, along with trays of raspberry tarts and slices of Eccles cake. A newsstand outside the door features copies of the Union Jack and British Weekly.

Dulley, from Sutton in Surrey, said she and her husband, Stephen, actually left town for a few days after coming to the decision to close up shop, they were so torn. Some of her staff of nine employees has been with Tudor House for 20 years, and she says she regrets their situation the most.

The Dulleys’ four children grew up in the tearoom, she said, and her son started behind the counter when he was just 11 years old. Tudor House features a grocery and gift shop next to the tearoom, and china tea sets are displayed along rows of different kinds of English teas, tins of lemon curd and jars of that peculiar English delicacy, Marmite.

Morton mans the counter

Lee Morton, from Leicester in the Midlands, has worked the counter at Tudor House for 16 years and isn’t sure what he will do when the tearoom closes.

“Maybe house sitting or dog walking,” Morton said, only half joking. “In any case, I’ll stay in Santa Monica.”

Dulley said that she felt the demographics were changing in Santa Monica. There used to be a larger ex-pat community, and her customers were mostly local regulars, not tourists.

“Our customers were British or Americans who spent time in Europe and are looking for a good cup of tea,” she said. “But it’s gotten so expensive here that people had to just move on. So maybe it’s time.”

Still, Dulley enjoys sharing her love of tea lore and practice, and hopes to see whatever remains of her inventory going to other worthy, local proprietors.

“Actually, the term ‘High Tea’ is misunderstood here,” Dulley said. “High Tea was served to English miners who would come up from the coal mines and go to their local pubs and sit on high bar stools for very substantial afternoon meals.

"‘Afternoon Tea’ was started by the Duchess of Bedford, who would feel a little peckish in the afternoon," she said."That’s what we serve here.”

Dulley dismissed American tastes for “not very strong tea” and suggested an exploration of heartier, more authentic fare.

“You should try the Glengettie Welsh tea,” she said. “That tea is so strong your spoon will stand up in it.”

Tudor House, at 1403 2nd Street, will be serving Afternoon Tea until they close the end of June.

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