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 traditions.
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 clotted!)
Enjoy an afternoon or cream tea at anyone of our hotels! Here's just a few to get you started... 🍰