Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cream Tea Shootout: Devon vs. Cornwall

Cream tea is a delightful English invention that makes just about any day seem special.  Combine fresh brewed tea (served with milk) with scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam, and your taste buds will have a little party in your mouth.  The folks of Devon claim to have enjoyed the first cream tea, so when we found ourselves in that part of the country, we naturally searched for the finest tea shop in the county and enjoyed Devon cream tea.

Devon cream tea is properly eaten by splitting the scone in two and spreading clotted cream on each half before strawberry jam is added atop the cream.  That's the way we prepared our treats at Primrose Tea Rooms and the experience was one of the most enjoyable of our trip.  The proprietress was congenial and seemed surprised that we would pick her shop out of all the tea rooms in Devon based solely on reviews posted on the internet.

We were well aware that Cornwall also boasts exceptional cream teas, so two days later we treated ourselves to a late afternoon Cornish cream tea at Pengenna Tea Room in Tintagel.  Cornish cream tea differs from Devon cream tea in at least one important aspect: the jam goes on the scone before the clotted cream.  The picture above was taken in Cornwall, so you can see the scone at my place properly prepared with the jam on the bottom and the clotted cream on top.

The creaminess or spreadability of the clotted cream may determine whether you choose to prepare your scone in the Devon style or the Cornish style.  Stiffer clotted cream requires some friction between the cream and application surface, and if that surface is covered with slippery jam, the Cornish method can be difficult to implement.  While fresh baked scones and locally prepared clotted cream and jam should result in tastier cream tea, we found several factory made ingredients that tasted wonderful, leading us to hesitate turning up our noses at plastic tubs.

Which cream tea is superior?  That's hard to determine.  The experience is primarily a sum of its parts, in that the quality of the scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam are all important variables, not to mention the supporting role of the beverage.  We found excellent ingredients in many different parts of the country, and felt unable to judge one county superior to another based on our limited samples.  Therefore, we volunteer our services to complete more sampling in the future.

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