What Is the Difference Between a Cornish and Devon Cream Tea?

Close up of cream tea on a white dish

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The cream tea is such a British institution and is loved everywhere in the UK but no more than in the two counties of Devon and Cornwall. Arguments abound between them both as to which is the real home of the “Cream Tea”. It would be a brave person to suggest who is correct (unless you live in either county!) as both are very similar in nature and both, of course, are delicious.

What Is It?

A cream tea from the south-west (the area in the UK of the two counties of Devon and Cornwall) consists of little more than freshly baked scones, fruity jam, clotted cream, and a lovely pot of freshly made tea.

Be careful, though—a Cream Tea should not be confused with the very old English custom of Afternoon Tea, which is more of a meal in itself involving so much more than just scones and eaten specifically after lunch and before dinner. On the other hand, one cannot think of a time in the day a cream tea it is not welcome, though breakfast may be pushing it just a little.

What is the Difference?

The difference is a subtle one. Hint: it's all down to the cream.

The content of the sliced scone remains the same, simply jam and cream. However, it is the order these are assembled that makes all the difference! In a Devon tea it is cream on the scone then jam; in Cornwall, it's jam first followed by the cream. Does this make a difference to taste? Not really, it is all a matter of preference and what you are used to. It is as simple as that.

What is Clotted Cream?

Another difference, peculiar to the south-west, is the use of clotted cream rather than the whipped double cream found served elsewhere in the UK (except perhaps Yorkshire where they also produce clotted). 

Clotted cream originates in the south-west and is a silky, yellow cream with a distinctive crust on the surface. It is made by heating unpasteurized cow's milk which then is left in a shallow pan for many hours which causes the cream to rise to the surface and "clot".