What Is A Devon Cream Tea? Answered

Are you wondering what is a Devon cream tea and how different it is compared to Cornish cream tea and afternoon tea? Well, read on to find out.

Scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam - what is a Devon cream tea
Devon cream tea or Devonshire crea tea

Nothing says “summer” louder than a perfect cream tea party in a sun-soaked garden. Or better yet, you can make a simple yet authentic Devon cream tea at home. Also known as Devonshire cream tea, cream tea is hands down the most simple yet exquisite version of afternoon tea. 

Devonshire cream tea consists of hearty, buttery, feather-light scones with a slap of thick clotted cream and yummy strawberry jam. Even though the Cornish vs. Devon cream tea debate continues, I’m not here to take wings.

In Devon, they have the scones split in half, the cream spread on both halves first, and then the jam. It goes otherwise in Cornwall, where the locals argue to add jam first on the split scones before spreading it with clotted cream at the end.

No matter how you enjoy it, the key to a successful and authentic Devon cream tea is a warm, crumbly scone served with farm-fresh berry jam and clotted cream so thick it sticks to your spoon, all accompanied by your favorite teapot.

Cream Tea Vs. Afternoon Tea: What’s The Difference?

From the get-go, cream tea and afternoon tea are alike though not identical. Feather-light, warm and buttery scones are present, along with fruity-laden strawberry jam and thick homemade clotted cream.

Cream tea is prepared with a buttery scone, strawberry jam, and thick clotted cream

But on top of that, a proper afternoon tea set must include a three-tiered tray with finger sandwiches, cakes, and pasties. 

Then again – what is cream tea? Think cream tea afternoon tea but simplified. Scones, cream, and jam are served with a pot of tea – and that’s it. 

History Of Devon Cream Tea

With the booming tourism scene spreading British culture to other parts of the planet, afternoon tea is a luxury leisure pursuit in many five-star hotels worldwide. After the 7th Duchess of Bedford brought to life this fine pastime tradition, afternoon tea has been enjoying its heyday for ages. Be that as it may, Devon cream tea has nothing to do with the Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria.

Devon Cream Tea originated from the southwest of England, even though its neighbor, Cornwall, is saying otherwise. One of the earliest records of cream tea affirmed that it came from Tavistock Abbey in the 11th century, north of Tavy River, Devonshire, even though nothing remains of the Benedictine abbey except the refectory, two gateways, and a porch.

In 997 AD, the Vikings wreaked havoc on the abbey. During its reconstruction, the workers in charge were rewarded with bread topped with clotted cream and strawberry jam made by the abbey monks.

As time ticked away, the tragic event of the building, the celebration of the reconstruction, and the snack became notorious. The monks then started to serve it to pilgrims and travelers on their way to Cornwall, passing the church.

Fast forward to the mid-19th century when the snack made a hit as it emerged as a traditional cream tea in this part of England, especially after the opening of the railway construction. Local tea rooms, hotels, and cafes went ahead to provide a relaxing, leisure-filled vacant hour called a Devon cream tea served with homemade scones, strawberry jam, clotted cream, and of course, a pot of tea.

What Is the Difference Between Devon Cream Tea And Cornish Cream Tea?

The real answer boils down to the order of the ingredients on top of the scone split. Both of the counties in this part of England have debated for years about whether cream goes first before jam or it should be the other way around.

In Devonshire, they add a heaping spoonful of clotted cream before giving it a slap of strawberry jam. In Cornwall, they like to do it the other way around. Jam is smoothed on first before the clot of cream comes after.

Traditionally cream tea scones in Cornwall are served on a Cornish split, a sweet bread roll, with jam then cream on top
Cornish cream tea

In Devonshire and Cornwall, they both receive a standing ovation for their cream teas. So at the end of the day, as long as you’re enjoying it, which ingredients go first doesn’t really matter.

You might also be interested in our guide on can you put coffee creamer in tea

How Do You Serve Devon Cream Tea?

As we have heard, Devon cream tea cannot go without freshly baked scones, served with jam, a dollop of clotted cream, and hot tea served in fine china. Like all good long-standing traditions, people in Devon want you to split the scones in half, then spread lashings of clotted cream on each half before the strawberry jam comes on top at the end.

For the tea, it’s not obligatory to stick to any specific type. Go for your favorite loose-leaf or herbal tea and accompany it with a jug of warm milk or sugar.

Perfect Devon Clotted Cream

The best clotted cream should be thick, creamy, and slightly sweet. Traditionally, whole cow’s milk comes into a large pan for rest overnight until the fat rises to the top the next morning. 

Afterward, they place a boiling water pot underneath the milk to heat it until the cream becomes a crust before they remove it from the heat and let it cool in the pantry. At the end of the day, the cold crust is scooped off the milk and set aside for use.

Today, heavy cream and fridges came to the rescue. All you need to do is look for the best non-ultra pasteurized milk you can get at the nearest store, heat it slowly overnight, and let it cool down for another eight hours. With everything said and done, the cream will separate itself from the liquid milk.


  • Oanh Nguyen

    Born and raised by a traditional mama-barista, Oanh is a typical Viet coffee aficionado who would spend her entire precious Sunday showing you how to categorize coffee beans just by the looks and smells. She enjoys writing about everything drinks-related while sipping her favorite rosebud tea. Find Oanh on LinkedIn.