The cream tea debate: Devon vs Cornwall

The rivalry when it comes to cream teas seems as if it could literally divide the nation. This fierce debate has raged long and hard. So which do you prefer – a Devon or a Cornish cream tea?

The basics of all cream teas are the same: scones, jam and cream, but depending on which county you’re in, you should assemble your cream tea slightly differently.

Two of these scones are wrongly assembled…

The Devon cream tea:

Use freshly baked scones, preferably straight from the oven, sliced then slathered with copious amounts of clotted cream and topped with a generous dollop of strawberry jam, plus of course, a pot of tea.

The Cornish cream tea:

Again, use freshly baked scones, buttered (though this step is often missed out) spread with strawberry jam and then drop a hearty dollop of clotted cream on top, plus the obligatory pot of tea.

So, whilst the difference is subtle, some folk can get very picky about how their cream tea is created. Personally, being from Devon, I find the thought of jam first with cream on top completely laughable, however, my Cornish colleagues feel the same way about my cream tea construction techniques.

Devon has made claims that it was responsible for the birth of the cream tea, with evidence that bread, cream and jam were being eaten one thousand years ago at Tavistock Abbey. However, the origins of the cream tea are still in dispute, with Cornwall determined to keep their place in cream tea history.

Is there anything more quintessentially English that a cream tea on a summer’s afternoon? Here enjoyed on the terrace at Longfield in Bantham

In recent years there have been a few accepted variations on the traditional cream tea, such as having herbal teas or a coffee instead of a traditional brew, and in some places you can even find them made with locally made chilli jams to give you a little extra kick. However, one thing that both folk from Devon and Cornwall will certainly agree on is the quality of the ingredients used.

I once made the terrible mistake of ordering a cream tea in the Lake District and was both horrified and hugely disappointed at the lovely home-made scone having been doused with squirty-cream. Quite honestly, it rendered it fit only for the bin. Whilst clotted cream may not be great for your arteries, there’s no denying that it is delicious and certainly acceptable as an occasional treat.

I’m sure that other counties are capable of serving a half decent cream tea, but sadly, not in my experience. I think this often has to do with the lack of clotted cream, which is simply easier to lay your hands on down here.

Here’s a chance to test yourself – in which county would you upset the locals if you prepared a cream tea like the above?

My furthest flung cream tea experience (although I felt like flinging the squirty-cream version as far as humanly possible) was in Australia. I didn’t go there specifically to test their cream teas (now that would be a dream job) however, when I saw the “Cream Teas” sign at the side of a dusty road, it was too much to resist. It was enjoyable, and served with thick double cream, so certainly a vast improvement on squirty cream, but it still wasn’t clotted cream.

So whichever way you like your cream tea served it seems you’re far more likely to get a decent one in Devon or Cornwall. There’s no denying that a cream tea is the perfect treat after a day exploring the West Country’s fantastic coast and countryside, so what better excuse to come and visit us and test out this culinary delight!

If you’d like to indulge in a delicious cream tea or two whilst on your holidays, here are our recommendations:

Devon Cream Teas:

The Avon Mill Garden Centre, Loddiswell near Kingsbridge bakes fresh scones and serves them up in generous portions – you’re sure to enjoy this delicious cream tea.

The Cottage Hotel at Hope Cove is known for scones as big as your fist, with lashings of clotted cream and a fantastic view from the terrace right out to sea.

Why not try Tea on the Green in Exeter’s Cathedral Square, famed for its cream teas. Based in a Tudor style building, position yourself outside on the cobbles for perfect people watching.

Step back in time at Vintage Tea in Totnes where you can enjoy a delightful cream tea served on fine bone china. This is a great place for a full afternoon tea with sandwiches, cake and the obligatory scones, cream and jam.

And if you fancy a modern twist on the traditional cream tea, why not try The Meeting Room in Kingsbridge for their savoury version using cheese scones and locally made chilli jam.

Cornish Cream Teas:

Eat in or take away a fresh cream tea from Bean & Scone in Polperro. This tiny little café is a real winner for cream teas fans.

How about a cream tea by the beach? Visit the Talland Bay Beach Café at Talland Bay for a delicious scones and locally-made strawberry jam.

Take your loved one for a special cream tea at The Dwelling House in Fowey, South Cornwall. The cosy atmosphere and secret garden combined with a large selection of teas, cakes and scones, means you won’t be disappointed.

If your family includes a four legged friend, then head to the dog and child-friendly Daisy’s Café in East Looe for a cheerful welcome and a lovely cream tea, complete with daisy shaped scones.

And whilst in Looe, why not have a DIY cream tea? Pop in to Purely Cornish for locally made scones, clotted cream and jam to take back to your holiday cottage to enjoy at your leisure.