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

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It’s no secret that the British love their afternoon tea and for years, Devon and Cornwall have hotly debated which county serves the best cream teas. So what exactly is the difference? We get to the bottom of it, and more importantly, share how you can make them for yourself at home.

The history of afternoon tea

Britain’s love affair with tea began in 1662 when Catherine de Braganza of Portugal married Charles II and introduced the custom of drinking tea to the British court. London’s first tearoom was then opened in 1706, by Thomas Twining, and it wasn’t long before tearooms were popping up all across the city. By the mid 19th century, afternoon tea had become an everyday ritual throughout Britain, as a way of satisfying hunger between lunch and dinner. It quickly evolved from simple snacking, into full blown social gatherings, where friends would gather together for a spread of cakes, scones, cream and jam – the beginnings of ‘cream teas’ as we know them today.

What is cream tea?

Cream tea consists of freshly baked scones topped with fruity jam and clotted cream, enjoyed with a pot of tea. Clotted cream is different from whipped or double cream – it’s a silky, yellow cream, with a distinctive crust surface.

The cream tea tradition gained traction throughout the Westcountry following a boom in tourism during the 1850s, where tourists sought out tearooms as a place to indulge and relax. The cream teas offered were made from the finest local ingredients, with the jam typically being strawberry, and the cream always clotted.

The difference between Cornish and Devon Cream Tea

Cornish and Devonshire cream teas are fundamentally the same – a scone with jam and cream. However, there is a subtle difference – the order of the ingredients. A Devon cream tea has the cream sitting on top of the scone, then the jam on top of that. A Cornish cream tea, on the other hand, has the jam as the first ingredient on the scone, followed by the cream.

Devonshire cream teas have been made with cream on the bottom and jam on top since the 11th century, when the tradition of eating bread with cream and jam first began in Tavistock Abbey. The people of Devonshire argue that the cream is a similar consistency to butter, and you wouldn’t serve butter on top of jam, so that’s why it should be on the bottom. They’re also of the opinion that it’s possible to serve more clotted cream if you apply it first. This idea originates from a time when jam was very expensive, so the scone would be loaded with cream, with a small dollop of jam placed on top.

Of course, this is disputed by the Cornish, who believe the only way to serve a cream tea is with the jam first, and cream dolloped on top. They believe it’s easier to spread the jam on first and you can taste the cream better if it’s on top.

Beyond the placement of the ingredients, there are some other historical variations between the two. In Cornwall, cream teas were traditionally served on a sweet bread roll, rather than a scone, known as a ‘Cornish split’. However, today, the scones and clotted cream used for both types of cream tea are largely similar.

Making your own

It’s really easy to make your own cream tea at home. All you need is scones, jam and cream – like Meander Valley’s delicious clotted cream, which is made using the traditional Cornish and Devonshire technique.

If you’d like to make your own scones from from scratch, follow this simple recipe:

Ingredients

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 55g butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 150ml milk
  • 25 caster sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten

Method

  • Heat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
  • Grease a baking tray.
  • Mix flour and salt, rubbing in the butter.
  • Stir in sugar, then milk until dough becomes soft.
  • Using a work surface covered in flour, lightly knead the dough. Pat down until 2cm thick and use a 5cm cutter to create rounds. Place the rounds on the baking tray and brush the rounds with the egg.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  • Add cream and jam in your desired order!


Related:
9 Delicious Recipes Using Clotted Cream

Which is better?

Since the main difference between the two types of cream teas nowadays is the order of the ingredients, it really comes down to personal preference.

Regardless, the rivalry between Devon and Cornwall still exists today, so why not try one of each, and decide for yourself which team you’re on? And for more natural and rich creams and butters inspired by artisan styles, check out Meander Valley’s Dairy range.