Cream Tea: the Devon or Cornish way?

The cream tea is a British institution, a light meal consisting of a cup of tea with milk and sugar (if desired) served with a combination of scones, clotted cream, and jam. The Cream Tea should not be confused with the old English custom of Afternoon Tea, which is more of a meal in itself involving so much more than just scones and eaten specifically after lunch and before dinner.

Friendly Rivalry

Traditionally a specialty of Devon and Cornwall, cream teas are offered for sale in tea rooms in those two counties, as well as in other parts of England, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

Located in southern England these two counties have for many years disagreed as to which is the real home of the “Cream Tea”. they are both are very similar in nature and both, of course, are delicious.

What Is the difference?

The difference is a subtle one. The content of the sliced scone remains the same, simply jam and clotted cream. However, it is the order these are assembled that makes all the difference.

Devonshire Cream Tea, traditionally cream on the scone first then jam. The county has eaten them this way ever since the cream tea’s origin in Tavistock Abbey, Devon, where the tradition of eating bread with cream and jam began in the 11th century (this is however disputed by the Cornish). As well as it being tradition, Devonians also argue that the cream is like butter and you wouldn’t put butter on top of jam.

Cornish Cream Tea, Alternatively the Cornish argue that spreading jam first followed by the cream is the correct way.  They argue it is easier to spread, you can taste the cream better on top and you wouldn’t put cream on the bottom of a fruit salad.

What is Clotted Cream?

Another difference, peculiar to the south-west of England, is the use of clotted cream (sometimes also referred to as Devonshire cream) rather than the whipped double cream found served elsewhere in the UK. Clotted cream originates in the south-west and is a silky, yellow cream with a distinctive crust on the surface. It is made by heating unpasteurized cow’s milk which then is left in a shallow pan for many hours which causes the cream to rise to the surface and “clot”.

Does any of this make a difference to taste? Not really, it is all a matter of preference. Why not just try both ways with each half of your scone and make your own decision?

Pop the kettle on, warm your scones and enjoy whichever way you choose.

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