Cream Tea Controversy – Which Way is Best Way?

The British are well known for our love of a nice cream tea. Devon and Cornwall both have contentious opinions of which way is the best way! Cream, then jam? Jam, then cream?

Where does the ‘Cream Tea’ Tradition come from?

Since 1662, the custom of tea drinking has had Royal connections. The marriage of Charles II and Catherine de Braganza of Portugal introduced drinking tea to the British court. The first tearoom was opened in London in 1706, by the merchant Thomas Twining with many more appearing very soon after. It wasn’t long before tearooms were opening all across the city. Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1840. With an evening meal being served fashionably late at eight o’clock, it left a long time between lunch and dinner. Therefore, she asked for tea, bread and butter in the afternoon. So was born, the afternoon tea. In time, the tea evolved to include cakes turning into cream teas as we know them today.

What makes a Cream Tea?

A nice pot of tea, obviously, plus scones (either fruit or plain) topped with cream and jam (in which order… we will come to later!). The cream must be clotted and must hold a distinctive yellow crust.

The tourism boom in the Westcountry in the 1850 led to tearooms being the place to relax and indulge for visiting guests. Being so well placed geographically, they were able to call on the finest ingredients from local bakeries and dairies to make the cream teas.

So what’s the Difference Between a Cornish and Devon Cream Tea?

All in all, both Cornish and Devonshire cream teas are the same. What really differs is the order of the ingredients when placed on the scone. In Devon, the cream is a butter substitute with the jam going on top. Go across the Tamar and the reverse is expected… jam then cream.

The Devon way is said to come from the Tavistock Abbey in the 11th century when eating bread and jam first began. Devonians said the consistency of the clotted cream is similar to butter and should therefore be on the bottom; after all, you wouldn’t but jam on top of butter. Of course, this is disputed by the Cornish. They, for ease of spreading, believe the jam should go on first. Other variations are due to historical reasons. A ‘Cornish Split’ is a sweet, bread roll rather than a scone.

So…. Which is better?

It really comes down to personal preference. The two variations a commonly accepted and others add butter before the jam and cream. Crazy…. we know!

Whether you like it the Devonshire way or are a budding Cornish wannabe, we don’t mind how you take yours, as long as you enjoy it! We suggest you cut the scone in half, make one side the Cornish way and one the Devon and decide for yourself!

Sally Starling

Sally Starling

Marketing Assistant at TLH Leisure Resort
Second generation full 'Torquinian'. Passionate netballer, big fan of the great outdoors and all things unusual.
Sally Starling

3 Replies to “Cream Tea Controversy – Which Way is Best Way?”

  1. Thank you so much for the blog each week , I really enjoy reading the little things you write . I am hoping we will still be able to come in October and know that you must be working so hard to make this happen.
    Thank you again
    Barbara Mercado

  2. I don’t think it matters as long as the scone is nice and fresh, and a lovely cup of tea.

  3. They taste the same, but surly it’s easier to put lashings of cream on top of the jam which sticks easily to the scone, especially if, like me, you do enjoy copious amounts of clotted cream.
    Also, as far as I’m concerned the jam should only be strawberry, to get that lovely taste of Summer.
    And another thing; the scone should be plain. A fruit scone is almost a travesty to the overall experience.
    Keep on rockin’ (and stay safe)
    Rockin’ Johnny

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