I've mentioned before that I'm a pc gamer. I'll play almost anything ... well, as long as it doesn't involve shooting or blowing things up. I like historic stuff, mysteries, puzzlers and fantasy games.
What has this to do with cream tea, you ask. Well, this little tidbit showed up in one of my games (Dark Fall: Lights Out) that has a historic setting. It wasn't a clue, just an interesting aside written on a piece of paper in a drawer. That's just the kind of detaily thing that drives some gamers nuts but that I love:
A cream tea is an indulgent version of afternoon tea. It's a treat that's as popular with tourists as it is with Britons themselves
The gentility of the event comes from the fine china and the ceremony of the tea pouring. The indulgence comes from the delicacies that go with them.
To accompany their pot of tea, diners eat scones, clotted cream, and ideally home-made strawberry jam. The scone (pronounced "skon') is a traditional form of baked bun, with a sweet and crumbly texture halfway between bread and cake. Diners split their scone horizontally, then spread each half with generous helpings of jam and clotted cream.
Clotted cream is a specialty of the South West of England. The counties of Devon and Cornwall vie with each other over who makes the best - and over how to dress a scone. Devonians put the jam on top of the cream; in Cornwall, they put the cream on top of the jam.
I was so tickled to find this in a computer game of all things. It sparked my "need to know", so I went in search of further info.
The origins of the term "cream tea" are a little muddy. Cream tea is also sometimes called Devonshire Tea. Some say that's because of the clotted cream - apparently if you're a true aficionado of clotted cream, there's nothing better than Devonshire clotted cream - but others say it's because the tea-scone-clotted cream-jam tradition started in the county of Devon in England.
According to Wikipedia:
The name "Devonshire tea", used in Australia, comes from the county of Devon in England, where it is a local speciality, although it is disputed that this type of tea is original to Devon. Indeed many people call it a Cornish cream tea. In Cornwall, however, it is traditionally served with a split, a type of soft white bread roll, rather than a scone (although most commercially-served cream teas come with scones, even in Cornwall). The Cornish traditionally always put the cream on top of the jam, whereas in other parts of the country the jam is often put on top of the cream.
One variation to a cream tea is called Thunder and Lightning which consists of a round of bread, topped with Clotted Cream and Golden Syrup. In this case, even the Cornish put the cream on the bread first to stop the syrup passing right through.
But this article may answer the question as to origins - Local historians in Tavistock, a town in West Devon, while studying ancient manuscripts, discovered that cream tea originated with the monks of Tavistock's Benedictine Abbey in 981 AD. The monks rewarded local workers who were helping to restore the abbey with bread, clotted cream and strawberry preserves. Voila! Cream tea was born.
Here's something interesting: Lots of places serve "cream tea", but how do you know if it's an authentic cream tea? Check this list.
What IS Clotted Cream?
I was wondering about making my own clotted cream just for grins, so I started investigating how it's made. Answers.com says it's a thick cream made primarily in England by heating milk until a layer of cream forms on its surface that is then cooled and skimmed off.
...made by gently heating rich, unpasteurized milk until a semisolid layer of cream forms on the surface. After cooling, the thickened cream is removed. Clotted cream can be spread on bread or spooned atop fresh fruit or desserts.
A reasonable facsimile may be made by combining two parts whole milk with one part whipping (heavy) cream, heating at the very lowest possible heat for a couple of hours until a skin forms, leaving it undisturbed overnght, and then harvesting the skin and its underclots—one may do whatever one likes with the remaining milk.
I think I'll just buy me some good Devonshire clotted cream, that's what I think. I'm still mostly a one-dot cook, or two-dot at the most. And lazy to boot.
Many thanks to Tom at Tea Room Appreciators for the use of two of their cream tea photos!