During the summer holidays many UK families will be heading down the M5 to brave the English weather in Devon and Cornwall. As well as beautiful beaches, wild moorland and rolling countryside one of the region’s biggest assets is its food. From Cornish pasties to fish and chips and local craft cider to cream teas there’s ample opportunity for visitors to indulge in the Westcountry’s local delicacies. We’ve enlisted the help of Devon Heaven Hampers, a local hamper company that sells cream tea hampers by post, to explain all you need to know about Devonshire cream teas.
What is a cream tea?
A cream tea, sometimes referred to as a Cornish cream tea or Devonshire tea, is a speciality of Devon and Cornwall where a pot of tea is served with scones, clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream is a smooth thick cream traditionally made in Devon and Cornwall by heating unpasteurised cow’s milk and leaving it to clot. Cream teas have also become popular outside of the Westcountry and are now often included as part of afternoon teas served in upmarket hotels throughout the UK. They make for an excellent mid-afternoon snack as not only do they taste great, they’re also rather filling. Cream teas are usually sold inclusive of a pot of tea and with two scones. The price for a standard two scone cream tea is often around £5 but can range from £4 to £8.
History of the cream tea and difference between how it’s served in Devon and Cornwall
The origin of the cream tea is alleged to date back to the 11th century when monks in Tavistock Abbey, Devon, would serve bread with cream and jam. In those days cream was abundant throughout Devon but jam was much more of a luxury product that only the very wealthy could afford, so a small amount of jam was served as the jewel in the crown on top of the cream. Today in Devon serving jam on top of the cream is still the preferred way to have a cream tea. However, the Cornish way to consume a cream tea is to put cream on top of the jam. The subject of which way is best to serve a cream tea enjoys much debate between Devon and Cornwall with Devonians arguing their way of eating a cream tea is more traditional, whilst the Cornish say that the taste of the clotted cream is more noticeable on top. All tearooms and hotels throughout the region avoid being drawn into the debate by serving the cream and jam separately allowing you to decide which is the best way for yourself.
Best places to visit for a cream tea
Devon Heaven Hampers have a map of 50 of the best places for cream teas in Devon on their website, but here are a few of the highlights. For North Devon, the Tea on the Green at Westward Ho offers a unique cream tea experience as it names its cream tea’s after famous movie stars… The Hepburn, The Grant and The Taylor! The café is excellently positioned near the North Devon coast and enjoys raving Trip Advisor reviews. Those visiting the south coast should consider the equally well regarded Angels tea room in Babbacombe near Torquay. Its home-made afternoon teas are also well recommended and great value for money. Another one of Devon’s most famous cream teas can be found at Otterton Mill in the heart of East Devon near the seaside town of Budleigh Salterton. It’s an award winning café, bakery and food shop set in the ancient mill on the banks of the peaceful River Otter. Dartmoor occupies a large un-touched region in the centre of Devon and has charming wooded river valleys and exposed moorland, those wishing to top off a day visiting the moors with a cream tea should consider Badgers Holt. It’s an old fishing lodge located at the famous beauty spot where the east and west tributaries of the River Dart meet. Badger’s Holt specialises in Devonshire Cream Teas, with a secret scone recipe exclusive to the restaurant for over 60 years and also offers home-made traditional fruit, cheese and gluten-free scones.
For Cornwall a great resource is www.creamteaguide.co.uk which lists 30 of the top tearooms and hotels serving cream teas in the region. We recommend checking out North Cornwall’s Lewinnick Lodge, a nice restaurant perched on the cliff-top of the Pentire headland that has panoramic sea views. It’s a stone’s throw away from one of Cornwall’s premier surfing destinations, Fistral beach in Newquay where kids can enjoy surfing lessons under safe instruction from expert surfers. On the south coast of Cornwall another great cream tea can be found at the Polpeor Café, which is situated on the most southerly point on UK mainland. It serves cream teas with beautiful views over the rocky coastline and crystal clear water. There are also some secluded coves nearby for families to enjoy.