The Mystery of Cream Tea

Have you ever read Enid Blyton’s books? And marvelled at the amount and variety of food those kids scarfed? I can safely blame my love affair with food on those books that I devoured as a child! Birthdays, midnight feasts, after-term concerts – all had food as one of the central themes. I would be salivating while reading about cakes, chocolates, biscuits, Nestle milk (!), sausages, ginger beer, sardines, ginger bread, lemonade... And, of course, the mysterious cream tea. I always wondered – did they put cream into the tea? Or drink it along with tea (yuck)?

Once I stumbled across a travel article that explained what cream tea was (this was before one just googled everything!). But I couldn’t understand what the big deal was about. Then 2 years ago I went to England on a holiday. One of my ‘food goals’ was to solve the mystery of cream tea, others being having a perfect English Breakfast  (check), eating as many plates of Fish n Chips as I could (check), finding out what a crumpet was (check)... You get the drift?

I tried Cream Tea at five different places in England, and it was at the last place that the mystery was really and truly solved.

Scene: Wayside Cafe in the tiny Village of Widecombe in Dartmoor
Time: Late afternoon on a perfectly glorious English summer day (those are few and far between!)
Cast: The family and I
Culprit: The best Cream Tea in all of England (in my opinion)
Exhibit A: See below
So what exactly is cream tea? A cup of hot black tea (with milk and sugar on the side), a plate of golden scones (‘scone’ rhymes with ‘con’, not ‘cone’), a bowl of jam and a bowl of clotted cream (ah, the cream!), all served up in dainty blue-and-white Wedgewood-esque china.

The tea – perfectly brewed
The scones – perfectly baked, buttery, crumbly and absolutely melt-in-your-mouth
The jam – sweet, sticky and strawberry
The cream – the piece de resistance, creamy clotted Devonshire cream
The combination – PERFECTION

You can try replicating the entire experience at home, with the exception of the clotted cream. While it is available across England, it’s the clotted cream from the counties of Devon and Cornwall that is considered as ‘typical’. Even then, there are slight differences in the cream from both the counties and it is the Cornish clotted cream that enjoys a Protected Designation of Origin tag by the European Union. You can try substituting clotted cream with whipped cream, but it’s just not the same!

A recipe for scones is coming up in the next post, so that you too can recreate a classic cream tea at home. Till then, feast your eyes on this! 

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