The cream tea story

Crumbly scones, sticky fruit jam, lashings of clotted cream and perfectly brewed tea. It’s a heavenly combination, but where did it all begin?

Time for tea

Britain’s love affair with tea began when Portuguese Catherine de Braganza married Charles II in 1662, bringing the custom of drinking tea at court with her and making tea popular worldwide.

In 1706, Thomas Twining opened London’s first tearoom. Before long, a flurry of tearooms appeared across the city, a far sight more inviting for a lady than the male-oriented coffee houses.

Afternoon tea

Tiring of the long wait between lunch and dinner, we have the Duchess of Bedford to thank for the invention of afternoon tea. What started out as simply ordering tea and treats to her room when peckish soon evolved into a gowns-and-all social affair, inviting friends to join her in her country house.  

By the middle of the 19th century, afternoon tea was an every day occurrence; a spread of sandwiches, cakes, scones, cream and jam – the first hint of cream teas as we know them today.

Cream tea

The cream tea tradition flourished in the Westcountry following the tourism boom in the 1850s, brought on by the opening of the railway. Visitors bustled south looking to relax and indulge, and hotels, tearooms, farmhouses and cafés were happy to oblige – offering delicious afternoon cream teas, made with the finest local ingredients.

The jam was invariably strawberry. And the cream was always clotted.

The Cornwall Devon divide

Cream then jam, or jam then cream? It’s the difference between the Cornish and the Devonshire cream tea and the cause of much controversy. Check out our etiquette guide to discover the proper way to do it.

HINT: don’t treat your clotted cream like butter and your scone will be all the better…

sharing the love of cream teas together