We are visiting Cheddar today with our walking group… in Cheddar there is a very fine tea room specialising in cream teas.. this is a piece I wrote for an anthology a friend and I published about the unexpected but fierce controversy surrounding that most innocent and British thing, the cream tea.
A subject which would always provoke a fierce and sometimes very confrontational debate when I was teaching …
The Correct and Cornish Way to Eat a Cream Tea
There are three elements to a cream tea – not counting the tea, scones, jam, clotted cream. It is so simple and yet causes such a furore, members of families taking sides (in our case husband and daughter against me and our son) and fiery letters written to the editor. What is so controversial? Whether, once you have cut the scone in half, you should put the jam on first, then cream or the cream on first and then jam.
Clotted cream is thick and comes out of its pot in delicious mountainous spoonfuls, so it makes perfect sense that the jam should go on the scone first and the cream be settled in all its glory on top. How is it possible to put that thick, almost solid cream straight onto the scone (it doesn’t attach itself to the surface in the same way as jam does either) and then to balance jam on top – the jam will just slide off!
I know what the opposition’s argument is; that without butter for the scone, the cream goes in its place. So jam-firsters, you take that lovely clotted cream, and you press it down and spread it thinly so you can hardly taste – let alone appreciate it! What is the point of clotted cream – you might as well have butter, ordinary old butter! if you did have butter, then you could butter your scone, spread the jam, and then put cream on top of that!
Just to make it perfectly clear, by the way – we are talking about clotted cream which I will explain by quoting directly from Wikipedia:
Clotted cream (sometimes called scalded, clouted, Devonshire or Cornish cream) is a thick cream made by indirectly heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and forms “clots” or “clouts”. It forms an essential part of a cream tea.
Soft gooey inside, creamy delicious crust barely containing it
We are not talking about whipped cream, aerosol cream, non dairy cream or any product artificially thickened or sweetened. Another thing which needs to be clarified – Devon clotted cream is delicious, and is no doubt, in actual fact, as delicious as Cornish clotted cream – it is the Devonish way of eating it on scones which is in contention!
We live in Somerset, and in tea shops you will see ‘Somerset cream tea’ advertised – but I have no idea which way is the correct ‘Somerset’ way to eat it. You may also see other styles of cream tea, chocolate scones and chocolate spread, fresh fruit instead of jam, even savoury versions, but the true cream tea is just those three items, scones, jam, clotted cream
Eating a cream tea the correct way – warm, freshly baked scones, split open, generously dolloped with jam, and with a glorious crown of thick clotted cream piled Everest high – or maybe I should say Bronn Wennili high (the highest hill in Cornwall, otherwise known as Brown Willy) is not only the best way, but the only way to eat scones, jam and clotted cream (also you get much more cream per scone and jam than doing it the Devonish way!!)
Cut open the scone… now, cream or jam on first?Here is a link to one of the finest clotted cream makers, Rodda’s:
…and here is a link to our anthology: