I discovered something completely delicious during my walk on the 630-mile South West Coast Path in England last summer. Cream Tea! No, it is not tea with cream in it. It is much better than that! Cream tea is a form of an “afternoon tea,” with not only perfectly brewed tea, but also with a tasty combination of “crumbly scones, sticky fruit jam, and lashings of clotted cream.” Delicious! Although, the several times I had a cream tea, it was not necessarily at “afternoon tea” time. I even had cream tea for dinner once!
For the “perfect up of tea” itself, using loose-leaf tea is best, as well as brewing the tea in a teapot, according to the website of “The Cream Tea Society” and a book called “Vintage Tea Party.” “Loose-leaf tea is essential for the perfect brew.” The tea should brew for at least three minutes, or up to five minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea, before pouring into a tea cup. The tea should never be poured into a mug. One place that I had cream tea at even gave me a little three-minute sand timer to watch the timing as it brewed. That same place also gave me a small strainer to hold over my tea cup when pouring the tea into the cup. The tea is followed with milk and then sugar; although one place I read said though that you put cold milk in the tea cup first, and then pour the tea after. Finally, after stirring, the spoon should be placed on the saucer. No outstretched pinkies please, however.
Next is the delicious scone. They should be light and springy, and are best when served fresh and eaten the same day as they are baked. The basic recipe for scones consists of flour, baking powder, butter, salt, and milk, although there are variations on this basic recipe, perhaps adding sugar, egg, lemon juice, or vanilla extract. Further variations on the scone itself may include sultanas (a type of raisins) or cheese or other flavors. They are round in shape, not triangular. Once the ingredients are mixed into dough, and baked for 10 to 12 minutes, it is best to simply break apart the scone with a simple twist in order to get two halves. Crumbs can be caught by the saucer.
The delicious toppings on the scone include clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream is used, never whipped cream. Clotted cream is made by “heating unpasteurized cow’s milk which then is left in a shallow pan for many hours, [perhaps even overnight around 12 hours,] which causes the cream to rise to the surface and ‘clot’.” The flavor of jam used mostly is strawberry, but I did have a black currant jam on one of my cream teas once.
Now is the debate – over these two toppings to put on the scones – clotted cream and jam; jam and clotted cream. Which do you put on first directly on the scone, and which do you put on the top? Depending on the county in the South West Coast Path area of England you are in, you either put the jam on first, or the clotted cream on first. Cornwall vs. Devon. Devon vs. Cornwall. The county of Cornwall says that the jam goes on the scone first, topped with the clotted cream. The county of Devon says that the clotted cream goes on the scone first, topped with the jam. (And some even top all that off with a slice of fresh strawberry!)
Whenever I ate my cream tea, unless it was served by someone else who put the toppings on for me, since I am from the US, and since I wanted to be comparable about this, but mostly because I wanted to experience cream tea with both options, I would put on half of my scone halves with cream on top, and the other half of my scone halves with jam on top. I fell in love with both options of enjoying cream tea!
Of course, there are even sweeter variations on the cream tea, almost like a dessert cream tea. I had one once with a warmed chocolate chip and orange scone, topped with a chocolate hazelnut spread. Now that was definitely delicious!
After I returned home from my walk on the South West Coast Path, I had a craving for cream tea. Fortunately there is a British shop and restaurant near where I live that sells scones baked at the shop, and clotted cream imported from England. I bought some jam from my local market, and just like when I was in England, I ate half my scones the Cornish way, and the other half the Devon way. Both are just as delicious!
Sweet and delicious Travels!
Sources of information and quotes for this blog from:
“Vintage Tea Party” book by Carolyn and Chris Caldicott