Originally an afternoon ritual found only in the English west-country counties of Devon, Cornwall and, to a degree Somerset, the famous traditional cream tea can now be found in hotels, tea shops and cafes the length and breadth of the country.
Although there is a certain amount of contention regarding its origins, it is said the history of the cream tea dates back to the 11th century, when it was first made and enjoyed by the monks of Tavistock Abbey in Devon.
On the other hand, the aristocracy of the time would enjoy ‘afternoon tea’. A light meal comprising small triangular or finger sandwiches, often filled with cheese and cucumber, egg mayo and cress, smoked salmon with cream cheese or ham and mustard. It would also include a range of pastries and, of course, a pot of tea.
However, a cream tea is a totally different snack, comprising fresh, straight-from-the-oven scones (sometimes with raisins baked in). A pot of butter, a pot of strawberry jam and a pot of clotted cream. Not forgetting the ubiquitous pot of tea.
Scones would be split in half, buttered, and then layered with either cream first, followed by jam, or vice-versa depending on preference. The best cream teas in London can be found in quality hotels and tea rooms, where they offer a choice of teas which are usually supplied loose leaf and strained from the pot into the cup.