English food is more than cheese and chutney, despite what this blog might lead you to believe. There is, of course, the ultimate in English fare – the cream tea (there are also numerous other items that are well known, such as fish and chips, bangers, and many pies that contain ingredients I don’t want to talk about). But for this post alone – let’s talk about the cream tea!
A delicious combination of tea with scones, clotted cream and jam, the cream tea is readily available in quaint cafes, restaurants and even pubs across England. For a proper one, however, you must go to Devon and Cornwall. Who “owns” the cream tea remains a bit of a mystery (seriously – there have been battles over which one reigns supreme), and both varieties are certainly very different. You can’t play neutral on this one and declare “Erm, I like both” when asked which is your favourite. Only one can be declared a winner.
In the interest of journalistic fairness, I felt it was important to sample both a Devonshire and Cornish cream tea to present a balanced review. I also enlisted the assistance and taste buds of my parents to weigh in on this important matter. Therefore, I present to you the ultimate test, polarizing opinions everywhere: Devon vs. Cornwall – Which cream tea takes the cake? (scone?)
First, some vital stats:
- Traditionally served with a “Cornish split”, a slightly sweet bread roll. While these are now harder to find, the methods in which the scones are to be eaten remains the same – first a healthy spread of jam, followed by a dollop of Cornish clotted cream. Butter can also be involved here, if your arteries are thinking “Let’s really make this interesting!”
- Split the scone in two, topping each side with a spoonful of Devonshire cream followed by jam. No butter allowed!
Location: Hole Foods, Mousehole, Cornwall
The Challenger: Two baked-on-site scones (not warm, although it was nearing the end of the day)
Accessories: Your choice of blackcurrant or raspberry jam with a little side pot of Cornish cream. Oh, and a big pot of tea.
Thoughts: Generous amounts of both spreads and the scones were golden on top, a bit crispy. Inside, they were dense and able to support a nice glob of cream and jam without falling to pieces. The Cornish cream itself was thick on top with the consistency and colour of a soft butter. Sacrilege alert – I ate mine the Devonshire way as I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of putting cream on top of jam – sorry Cornwall. My Mum, however, prefers the Cornish method and was pretty content with the results of eating it the “traditional” way. We all agreed that the scones are excellent and the tea is perfection. Eaten overlooking the harbour, so bonus ambiance points awarded.
Score: 5 out of 5 cups of tea
Location: The Pea Green Boat Cafe, Sidmouth, Devon
The Challenger: Two warm scones with a dusting of icing sugar
Accessories: A generous pot of Devonshire cream and a prepackaged strawberry jam. And a big pot of a tea.
Thoughts: Warm scones! Big points right there, although they had a taste more like a tea biscuit than the sweetness of a scone that I’m used to. The cream was a whipped consistency and a bit runnier and paler in texture and colour. I’m familiar with Devonshire cream as that’s all we can get in Canada, but I have to say – the Cornish cream had a more appealing taste. I ate my scones the Cornish way this time (why not do things backwards?) and have to say – jam first may be better (Mum, if you’re reading this, you were right). The tea itself tasted far superior here – whether it was due to our front-row seats to the ocean I’m not sure, but I need to toss in some bonus ambiance points again.
Score: 4.5 out of 5 cups of tea (minus 1/4 cup for the texture of the cream and another 1/4 cup for the scones)
The Winner: Cornish! Apologies to my Devonshire-resident Nan and her love for their clotted cream.
In all seriousness though, they’re both delicious. Try them both out if you’re trekking around England! Perfect for quieting that pesky grumbly tummy between lunch and dinner.