Let me tell you about one of East Texas’ best-kept secrets, a place that is no secret to those of us in who live in the area. Mar Teres Tea Room & Gifts, located on the outskirts of Lufkin and owned by Teresa Stokes and Margaret Purke, is a quaint little eatery set in the vintage warmth of an old restored home.
Since its inception in 2002, Mar Teres has become one of the hottest restaurants in town, evident by the large crowds of regulars and first-time patrons filling the establishment’s several dining rooms Tuesday through Thursday for lunch. This place isn’t just for women, either; men love the food, too. If you’re not already a Mar Teres regular, it’s just a matter of time before one of your friends will invite you out for lunch and take you to this amazing place, as one of my friends did. And just like I am now, you will be hooked.
To say Mar Teres is known for one dish would just depend on whom you ask. I know many of their regulars would urge you to try their homemade desserts on your first visit, while others may suggest the weekly special. When it comes to ordering a beverage to enjoy with your meal, I think it’s safe to say the unanimous suggestion would be Mar Teres’ signature almond iced tea.
For many East Texas families, Mar Teres is at the top of their preferred caterers list when it comes to ordering homemade pies for special events like birthdays and weddings, or even just to add a delicious grand finale to dinner at home. I decided to sit down with Teresa and ask her a few questions about the secrets to their success.
Q: How was Mar Teres Tea Room born?
A: I had always had a dream of having a coffee shop or tea room kind of place. My husband and I went and looked at coffee roasters and began to explore that option. That door seemed to close. Through a series of events, Margaret and I came together and the tea room dream began to unfold.
Q: How long have you been in business?
A: In September we will celebrate 14 years.
Q: What made you choose a vintage house for the atmosphere?
A: We were aware the house we are in was for sale. We looked at a couple of other houses first. However, when we walked in this house, we knew it was everything we wanted. We could see the beauty and potential. We really would love a larger kitchen and hope that we can enlarge that eventually. It’s amazing what we do in an extremely small kitchen, considering everything we make in house.
Q: Is there a special secret to your almond tea?
A: When we opened, we thought we would serve almond tea for a while and change to a different one. Well, that never happened. It was a hit and we had almond tea addicts!
Q: Who comes up with your recipes?
A: Some recipes were recipes that we had made for our families, and some we have created since opening.
Q: What would you like people to know about your tea room?
A: We know our space may seem small, but we feel that creates a special quaintness. It’s just a charming atmosphere.
Q: Your tea room is a favorite in Lufkin. What has been the key to your success?
A: We are blessed with wonderful employees who make our business a continued success. Our desire is that when you come for lunch, our food will be consistently delicious and the atmosphere pleasant.