Sconehenge offers the traditional tea scone — and a range of twists

The 26-year-old bakery and cafe are now owned by employees, many of whom have worked there 10 to 20 years.

Florentino Hidalgo, a baker who started at Sconehenge 20 years ago, makes mixed-berry tea scones. Credit: Malcolm Wallace

May 1, 2024

BERKELEYSIDE — With perhaps the exception of the bagel — malt not sugar! baked and boiled! — what other baked good has elicited as much doctrinal fervor as the tea scone? And while bagel controversies are recent, arguments over scones have been raging for centuries.

First, there’s the pronunciation. Does it rhyme with gone, as is most common in the U.K., or with skoon, as villagers from Scone, Scotland, would say? Or does it rhyme with cone, as heard in the U.S. of A.? Then there’s the matter of which to apply first: jam, as favored in Cornwall, or clotted cream, Devon-style.

Assorted scones with clotted cream, from Sconehenge. Credit: Malcolm Wallace

For Jing Xu, president of Sconehenge Bakery & Cafe, such controversies can stay on the other side of the pond. “We pronounce it the American way, obviously,” she said.

Pronunciation aside, Sconehenge makes an English-style tea scone.  “They are more moist,” Xu said. “They also have a lighter texture and are flakier, more like a sweet biscuit.”  Take that, those who think of scones as rock-hard pucks. 

Indeed, it’s hard to find a sacrosanct U.K. scone law that Sconehenge doesn’t gleefully violate.  For starters, it doesn’t insist that tea scones must be taken with tea. “That really wouldn’t work in Berkeley,” Xu said. “This is a coffee-drinking town. Personally I eat my scones with coffee.” 

Jing Xu came to Sconehenge in 2023 as its president when the company transitioned to employee ownership. Before to that she ran a small kombucha business. Credit: Malcolm Wallace
Sconehenge Bakery & Cafe serves breakfast, brunch and lunch Thurs.-Sun., 2787 Shattuck Ave. at Stuart Street. The bakery sells its scones, cookies, almond cakes, galettes and more at both Berkeley Bowl locations, Andronico’s (in both the North Shattuck and Solano commercial districts), Whole Foods (in the Gilman District and on Telegraph Avenue), and at Monterey Market and Star Market.

Nor does it believe in restricting scone ingestion to an official teatime of 4 p.m. “I eat them all day, any time of day,” she said. Indeed, at Sconehenge, a diner could start the day with scone-based eggs Benedict or a breakfast sandwich, then have “scone-acado” avocado toast for lunch. And they could take scones home and make an ice cream sconewich for dessert. (The breakfast and lunch menu does extend beyond scone dishes, with eggs, sandwiches, burgers, salads, and more.) 

Sconehenge also doesn’t believe that there is only one true topping: clotted cream and jam. “We didn’t even offer clotted cream until this year,” Xu said. “Most Americans don’t even know what clotted cream is. It’s just a terrible name — clotted cream. You have something that’s really delicious but it sounds like a blood disorder.”

If all that rule-breaking weren’t enough, Sconehenge is considering inventing a savory scone, perhaps with kale. “We’re tossing around ideas,” she said. “But we’re not ready to disclose yet.” 

Whether your taste runs toward the plain traditional or to one of Sconehenge’s other nine inventive flavors, this is the month to give scones their due. May 30 is National Scone Day. (Preceded on May 29 by National Biscuit Day!) May is also Small Business Month in California (celebrated nationally as Small Business Week) including free educational trainings and events for businesses, to acknowledge the hard work, ingenuity, and dedication of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

Jose Ambriz, baking manager, adds glaze to Sconehenge’s galettes. Credit: Malcolm Wallace

The 26-year-old Sconehenge — now owned by employees — is exactly the type of business this observance was designed to celebrate. 

The founders, June and Andy Lee, came to the project with years of experience in the food industry: for 14 years the Lees ran the restaurant Omnivore, a few blocks away. Then, for three years they ran a pastry shop in Walnut Creek, where they first made tea scones. 

In 1998, at the urging of Berkeley Bowl founders Glenn and Diane Yasuda, the Lees opened Sconehenge in the cafe space of the original Berkeley Bowl on Shattuck Avenue.

Sconehenge has long been a Berkeley Bowl tenant, vendor and customer. They buy all their produce from the Bowl and sell their baked goods there. 

“My family has had a long relationship with the founders of Sconehenge,” said Gen Yasuda, son of Glenn and Diane. “We are proud to be a part of their origin story.”

Rochelle Arucan has been with Sconehenge for 20 years. Credit: Malcolm Wallace

Rochelle Arucan has also had a long relationship with Sconehenge. At age 12, she was a friend of the Lees’ daughter, Angela.  The two girls became friends in the aftermath of a middle-school heartbreak, Arucan said. “We’ve been friends ever since.” 

In the decades that followed, Arucan’s friendship with the Lee family led to work at the cafe and bakery. “The Lees gave me my first serving job in the cafe,” she said. “From there I started helping in the back, then on order intake and scheduling, and baking and making scones and pastries. For the past 20 years, there hasn’t been a time when I wasn’t connected in some way.” 

Arucan is now the company’s general manager.

From left: Jing Xu, president; Luis Ambriz, cafe manager; Jose Ambriz, baking manager; Jataurus Sherrill, fleet manager; and Rochelle Arucan, general manager. Credit: Malcolm Wallace

Decades of service is not uncommon for Sconehenge employees. Beto Macias, now lead server behind the counter, has put in two decades with the company. Baking manager Jose Ambriz has 19 years under his belt. Jose’s uncle Luis Ambriz, now cafe manager, is 13 years in.

Now, they are all co-owners. In 2023, the Lees decided to retire and, rather than turn over the business to an unaffiliated — and perhaps more corporate or less community-minded — entity, the Lees opted for an employee-owned model, as have more than 20 other businesses in Berkeley

They undertook the transition with support from Teamshares, which specializes in helping companies move from privately owned to employee-owned models. One year in, Sconehenge employees own 15% of the company; over a 20-year span, the employees’ share will grow to 80%. About two-thirds of the staff — full-timers over 18 — are now co-owners.

For Arucan, the change has simultaneously expanded and solidified her commitment to the bakery. “So many of us have been here for decades,” she said. “We’ve watched families grow up at our tables. I grew up at our tables.

Sconehenge is located at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Stuart Street, near Berkeley Bowl. Credit: Malcolm Wallace

“We’ve been able to be part of our customers’ lives in a way that most businesses can’t. Our staff, our customers —we’re not all technically related, but we’re related. We are carrying on the legacy of the Lees. And we’re doing it in a way that connects us more to Berkeley, and the business, and each other.”


Sconehenge scones and other baked goods are sold at the cafe, as well as at Andronico’s, Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, Star Market and Whole Foods. Credit: Malcolm Wallace
Share this article
Shareable URL
Prev Post

‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’ with Berkeley’s Wilderness Travel and Backroads

Read next