On the Last Friday in June, International Cream Tea Day is celebrated. Wilkin and Sons Tiptree Jam and Rodda’s Clotted Cream have been working together with the Cream Tea Society to donate 50,000 portions of jam and cream every year for the last 9 years, so that money can be raised for worthy charitable causes. To date, this partnership has raised more than £1 million for hundreds of charities across the UK. This is an opportunity to enjoy a quintessentially British tradition while helping those in need.
What is a Cream Tea?
A cream tea is an afternoon snack comprising of tea, scones, clotted cream (cow’s milk heated with steam and allowed to cool until it becomes thick) and jam. Cream teas are served in tearooms and cafes throughout England – particularly in Devon and Cornwall – and also in Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The British have been drinking tea since the mid-17th century when Portuguese Catherine de Braganza married Charles II, bringing the custom of drinking tea at court with her. In the early 19th century, afternoon tea was invented by the Duchess of Bedford who would order sandwiches, cakes and scones along with tea to her room. This was quickly adopted by the aristocracy and filtered down through the classes from there. There is some disagreement about the origins of cream teas. There is evidence that monks at Tavistock Abbey in Devon ate pieces of bread with cream and jam in the 11th century. Even if this tradition started later than this, it was certainly all the rage by the 1850s, when tourists to the West Country (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Bristol) would enjoy a delicious snack made with local ingredients.
Regional/ international variations
In England, there are two main types of cream tea: Devonshire and Cornish. In Devonshire, the method is to cut the scone into two pieces, spread a layer of clotted cream and then place strawberry jam on top. The Cornish method is spread jam on the two halves of scone, then put cream on last. The Cornish method is also commonly used in London. This difference in method is the source of many good-natured disagreements over a cream tea. Cream teas are also common in Wales where they use raspberry jam, and there are reportedly ex-pat communities in Argentina where you can find an authentic cream tea!
Afternoon tea/Cream tea etiquette
As afternoon and cream tea have their origins in upper class society, there are some social rules, or etiquette, which you might find some people discussing or observing. Below are some tips adapted from www.creamteasociety.co.uk
· Loose-leaf tea is better than teabags. Brew loose leaves in a teapot but remember to serve a second
pot of hot water – just in case you’ve over-brewed (left the tea in the water for too long).
· The person sitting nearest the pot of tea should pour for everyone.
· Make the perfect brew. Allow the tea to brew for at least three minutes before pouring – time enough for the full flavour to infuse.
· Tea before milk. Pour the tea first, followed by milk (so you can accurately judge the required strength) and then sugar.
· Spoons on saucers, please. Once you’ve stirred, place your spoon on your saucer (think of the tablecloth).
· No outstretched pinkies! Always hold the cup between your thumb and forefinger. Contrary to popular opinion, sticking your little finger out does not a lady/gentleman make.
· Simply break apart. The perfect scone should break apart with a simple twist! Just make sure you’ve got your saucer to catch the crumbs.
· Spoon then spread. If the table is laden with bowls of jam and cream, spoon your desired amount onto your plate first, before spreading them thick on your scone.
· A final word. Never use whipped cream. It’s utterly improper.