The cream tea is a British institution that is loved everywhere in the UK, but perhaps no two counties love it more than Devon (or Devonshire) and Cornwall. Arguments abound as to which location is the real home of the cream tea, with minor differences in each tea service. Regardless of which side you're on, they're both a delicious way to spend an afternoon.
What Is Cream Tea?
A cream tea is a light meal consisting of scones, fruit jam, clotted cream, and a freshly-brewed pot of tea. Traditionally, the scone is served warm and, when possible, freshly-baked, and the cream is clotted rather than whipped. Strawberry jam is by far the most popular jam used. It's commonly served in southwest England (where Devon and Cornwall are located) but can also be found throughout the country. It's often enjoyed in the afternoon but can be served anytime in between meals.
A cream tea should not be confused with the very old English custom of afternoon tea, which is more of a meal. Afternoon tea typically involves more than simply scones, with little sandwiches and other bites and desserts served, and is eaten specifically after lunch and before dinner. Cream tea is a more relaxed and lighter tea break.
Devon Cream Tea vs. Cornish Cream Tea
The difference between cream tea in Devonshire and Cornwall comes down to how its served. Both versions serve the same items: tea, scones, jam, and clotted cream. In Devon, the scones are split in two and topped with cream followed by jam. In Cornwall, the split scones are topped with jam and then cream. While it doesn't necessarily affect the flavor of the cream tea, it's simply the order of the ingredients that are different. Both versions of cream tea are served throughout England and how you decide to eat your scones will come down to personal preference.
The Cornish split, a slightly sweet bread roll that's lighter than a scone, can sometimes be used in place of a scone for cream tea. In Devon, a similar bread called the Devonshire split is occasionally served. It tends to be smaller than a Cornish split, and both are served with cream and jam.
What is Clotted Cream?
Clotted cream is traditionally served with southwestern cream teas. It is somewhere in between whipped cream and butter, yellow and thick like butter but rich and creamy like whipped cream. It is made by heating unpasteurized cow's milk in a shallow pan for many hours which causes the cream to rise to the surface and "clot." Cornish clotted cream holds an EU Protection of Designated Origin, and products can only be labeled as "Cornish clotted cream" if they are made with milk from Cornwall cows and are 55 percent butterfat. The rich grass eaten by Cornish cows gives the clotted cream its trademark yellow color.