How To: Do A West Country Cream Tea in the North

We've mentioned our recent weekend in Leeds a few times by now; as regular readers may have gathered, it was quite a culinary adventure and we have many stories to tell from being treated to delicious things by A's brother K and his girlfriend J - both dab-hands in the kitchen.

After being cooked an excellent brunch and shown around the city centre, A and C wanted to treat K and J to tea and cake (or similar) as a token of our appreciation for showing us such a good time. With this in mind, we hunted around for some cute tea spots but, not finding much that fitted the bill (any Leeds-dwellers amongst you, please feel free to suggest any good tearooms for future reference!) we improvised and decided to put on a bit of a spread back at K and J's place.


The idea was simple but effective: a traditional afternoon tea of scones, jam and cream with some cake, and a nice pot of tea to round things off.

We're afraid to say we didn't make the cake, but decided to be very middle class and picked up Waitrose's lemon drizzle cake. It received rave reviews from everyone apart from J, who admittedly isn't a lemon cake fan anyway. Never fear, though, as the main event - the authentic cream tea - was yet to come...
Piece of cake

Ah, cream teas. For the benefit of any readers beyond the British Isles who are a little perplexed as to what a 'cream tea' means, let us provide you with a brief explanation.

A very British phenomenon, a cream tea (sometimes known as a Cornish cream tea, or a Devonshire cream tea, reflective of the areas in which the teas originated and are especially popular) is an afternoon occasion, whereby you drink tea with a scone, topped with clotted cream and then with strawberry jam.

There's always some debate over exactly how you prepare a cream tea, so here's our ultimate indisputable guide (coming from C, who has spent a lot of time over the years scoffing cream teas in the name of valuable research).

What's scone on?

Firstly, buy good scones: we purchased some Duchy Originals. As a brief background on Duchy Originals for any non-Brit readers, in a quaint English way Prince Charles (the Prince of Wales) decided some years back to set up a food company selling organic, premium British-made products such as biscuits, scones, preserves and cheeses. It was a raving success, and the products make a very nice treat every once in a while - and are especially apt for a cream tea. Cut the scones in half, and warm through if you fancy.

Next, buy good clotted cream: C's crucial tip and real sticking point for a good cream tea is to use Rodda's, and accept no substitutes. Rodda's is a Cornish clotted cream, and it's actually rather hard to explain just how it's different from normal clotted cream without simply saying that it's about ten times better. Honestly, take our word for it: A had never tried Rodda's before (much to C's horror), and was initially a little sniffy about spending the extra money to buy this clotted cream rather than another as it tends to be a fair bit pricier. However, one mouthful of the stuff and his eyes widening in culinary delight was enough to convince A never to try other clotted cream again.

The third component of a cream tea is strawberry jam: the fancier the better, of course. A Duchy Original preserve would probably have worked really well here, but we went with bog standard Waitrose strawberry jam and found it just as nice.

An important note here, in your final step of scone preparation: the order is as above - cut the scone in half, then add the cream, then the jam. Do NOT do it the other way round, as this is tantamount to sacrilege for cream tea fans. Also, don't even think about using butter. Don't say we didn't warn you.

And finally, enjoy with a nice cup of tea.

Rosie lee

As the alternative names indicate, cream teas originated in the South West of England, and our experience tells us that an authentic cream tea in that part of the world is a culinary experience which takes quite some effort to top.

Cream teas originated in the 11th century, so they've been going for quite some time - testament, no doubt, to how enjoyable they are to eat. Fitting the perception of British teatime, sitting down to an afternoon cream tea isn't just a culinary occasion - it's also a social one. There's something really very refined and enjoyable about tucking into a cream and jam-topped scone and a good old cuppa while chatting with friends and relatives, and our Leeds cream tea was no different.

An all white tea


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