Traditional afternoon tea consists of a spread of dainty
sandwiches (of course including thinly sliced cucumber
sandwiches) cakes, scones, cream and preserves with tea grown in
India or Ceylon poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone
china cups; the first hint of cream teas as we know them today.
The Cream Tea
So onto the cream tea itself and the centuries old Devonshire vs
Cornish debate over the origin of this finest of English dining
Local historians in Tavistock, West Devon, claim that ancient 11
Century manuscripts depict that the monks of the local
Benedictine Abbey fed local workers with bread, clotted cream
and preserves who were restoring the Abbey after it was
plundered by Vikings in 997AD. However take a step over the
border and the Cornish make a mighty claim for originating
clotted cream in 500BC. Food historian, Alan Davidson, theorised
that Phoenicians (from what is now modern day Lebanon and Syria)
sailed to the Cornish shores and traded their art of cream
making called ‘Kaymak’ (a recipe similar to clotted
cream that is still produced in Lebanon and Afghanistan today)
for Cornish tin. No matter its heritage, the Cornish have
undeniably made it their own.
'The proper way'
Cream first or jam first? It is a debate that has been rumbling
on for years between the Devonians and the Cornish.
The Cornish way is jam first and cream on top, one reason being
that with a warm scone, the cream melts thus limiting the amount
of cream. In a
BBC Cornwall report
Nick Rodda of Rodda’s Clotted Cream says..."I would say
that the Cornish make their cream better, and as my grandfather
always jokingly said, 'we always put our cream on the top
because we are proud of it, Devonians are slightly ashamed of
theirs so they cover it up with their jam', but that's a little
bit of tongue in cheek rivalry."
The Devonian way is to lavish the warm scone with cream first
and then a dollop of jam on top, one common way of thinking is
‘would you put butter on top of jam?’ In the same
BBC Cornwall report, Paul Winterton from Langage Farm in Devon
suggests that if you look at the theory of where the cream tea
originated, it was always the jam component that was the most
expensive of which Devon and Cornwall people couldn't afford so
the cream would supposedly go on first with a small portion of
jam on the top of that cream, so the history, the provenance,
comes from Devon and not Cornwall.
We like to think of it as a unity of two of England’s
finest counties and however you enjoy this most patriotic of
pleasures, we shan’t judge you (as long as the cream is
Enjoy an afternoon or cream tea at anyone of our hotels!
Here's just a few to get you started... 🍰