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A cream tea (also known as a Devon cream tea, Devonshire tea,[1] or Cornish cream tea)[2] is a form of afternoon tea light meal, consisting of tea taken with a combination of scones, clotted cream, and jam. Traditionally a speciality of Devon and Cornwall, cream teas are offered for sale in tea rooms in those two counties, as well as in other parts of England, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

Cream tea
Devonshire tea.jpg
A cream tea, comprising tea taken with scones, clotted cream and jam.
Alternative namesDevonshire tea, Cornish cream tea
Place of originDevon, England
Region or stateSouth West England
Serving temperatureTea: hot
Scones: warm
Jam & cream: ambient
Main ingredientsTea, scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam
Food energy
(per serving)
High kcal
A modern cream tea.
Cream tea in Boscastle, Cornwall, prepared according to the "Devon method".


The exact origin of "cream tea" is disputed, although there is evidence to suggest that the tradition of eating bread with cream and jam already existed at Tavistock Abbey in Devon in the 11th century.[3][better source needed] The earliest use of "cream tea" in the sense of this article (as opposed to a cup of tea with cream in it) that the Oxford English Dictionary reports is in the 1964 novel Picture of Millie by Philip Maitland Hubbard, "We just bathe and moon about and eat cream teas." However, the "Foods of England" website has discovered a newspaper cutting, 'The Cornishman' of Thursday, 3 September 1931 (p. 8), which uses the phrase in its modern sense.[4]


There are regional variations as to how a cream tea should preferably be eaten.

  • The Devonian (or Devonshire) method is to split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted cream, and then add strawberry jam on top. The Devon method is also commonly used in neighbouring counties and other Commonwealth countries.
  • With the Cornish method, the warm 'bread split' or a 'scone' is first split in two, then spread with strawberry jam, and finally topped with a spoonful of clotted cream. This method is also used elsewhere, notably in London.[5]

Although these distinctions on whether to apply the jam or the clotted cream to the scone first are still claimed by many, cream teas are served and enjoyed both cream first and jam first throughout both counties.

Scones are rarely buttered in commercially available teas. Traditionally it is important that the scones be warm (ideally, freshly baked), and that clotted (rather than whipped) cream and strawberry jam, rather than any other variety, are used. Butter is generally not included, and some sources advise that the tea should not be served with milk.[6]

In Devon, an alternative to the scone found occasionally is the "Devon split" or "Chudleigh", lighter than a scone and smaller than a Cornish split.[7] In Cornwall an alternative was traditionally a "Cornish split", a type of slightly sweet white bread roll, rather than a scone.[8] It is now rare to find this available commercially, even in Cornwall, but splits are still used by many Cornish families in their own homes.[citation needed]

Another variation to a cream tea is called "Thunder and Lightning", which consists of a round of bread, topped with clotted cream and honey.[2]

Protected statusEdit

In May 2010, a campaign was launched at the Devon County Show to have the name "Devon cream tea" protected within the European Union under Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) rules. The campaign was launched following discussion on BBC Radio Devon.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Devonshire tea", Retrieved 19 November 2017
  2. ^ a b Salmans, Sandra (5 September 1982). "BRITAIN'S BEST AT TEATIME". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 January 2007.
  3. ^ "Were cream teas 'invented' in Tavistock?". BBC News. 17 January 2004. Retrieved 28 January 2007.
  4. ^ "The Foods of England - Cream Tea".
  5. ^ "BBC News Article". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  6. ^ Not Panicking Ltd (20 October 2015). "h2g2 – Cream Teas – Edited Entry".
  7. ^ "Cornish Splits, some very exciting news and a thank-you", Regula Ysewijn, 16 April 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2017
  8. ^ O'Brien, Harriet (8 July 2006). "Cornwall: a clean break". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 6 October 2006. Retrieved 28 January 2007.
  9. ^ "Devon cream teas could get EU protected status". BBC News. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2015.

Further readingEdit