Everybody loves a traditional cream tea. Previously the ‘preserve’ of genteel WI-style ladies and coach trips to the West Country, the cream tea has enjoyed a recent resurgence. And quite right too – there is nothing more comforting or reviving than a late afternoon plate of crumbly scones, sticky jam and gooey clotted cream.
Suddenly, the cream tea is everywhere. The Cream Tea Society is introducing its first ‘National Cream Tea Day’ on 26th June. @jam_first has over 3,000 followers on Twitter, all passionately posting pictures of their scones. The more vintage the tea set and the more foliage in the background, the better. Naturally, traditional afternoon tea was a regular feature of BBC’s The Great British Bake Off.
Although popularised by the nineteenth-century tourism boom in Cornwall and Devon, the traditional cream tea was not just for visitors. For the truly hungry (and thoroughly Cornish), “cakey tea” comprises of the full Cornish cake collection: Thunder and Lightning (a Cornish version, where the jam is substituted with black treacle), jam and cream scone, saffron bun and yeast cake, all to be eaten on a Sunday evening.
Tony Goodman, owner of The Globe in Fowey and brains behind hit YouTube spoof “Poldark – Proper Version”, introduced a wider audience to the traditional Cornish “cakey tea” when the eponymous hero develops a taste for it. Cakey tea has even had a mention in the House of Commons, with new MP for St Austell and Newquay, Steve Double, discussing the Poldark effect and “cakey tea wars” between rival establishments in his maiden speech.
So, what is a proper cream tea? The original carrier for the jam and cream was a “split”, a milk-dough roll so-called because they were “split” open to take the toppings. These days, a scone is perfectly acceptable – homemade though, of course.
The what-goes-on-first debate between Cornwall (jam) and Devon (cream) divides the two counties more than the River Tamar. Naturally, we serve it the proper Cornish way, with the delicious clotted cream sitting pertly on top of the jam. However in the interests of impartiality, etiquette experts DeBretts say the jam must go on first, as does the divine Mary Berry (sorry Devon).
What sort of jam should go on first? Strawberry, unless you’re having a Thunder and Tightning. The cream has to be clotted – anything else is, frankly, an insult to tradition. We use Rodda’s from Redruth, a family company that has been producing clotted cream since 1890.
What to drink with it? Well, tea; however it seems perfectly acceptable to have coffee instead these days. The Ritz offers a champagne option, and who are we to argue with them? We are more than happy to liven up your afternoon tea with a glass of something chilled and fizzy (and this combination works surprisingly well).
No one should leave Cornwall – or The Cornwall – without experiencing the classic Cornish cream tea. We serve ours in The Parkland Terrace, every day between three and five o’clock. See you there.