Posted by: marymarthatours | October 28, 2014

A West Country Cream Tea Trivia Question

Liyster, CC-BY-3.0

One of our favorite activities while on our tours is the morning Trivia game.  This game is fun, provides opportunities for interaction with local people, and gives us a chance to dispense information on a wide variety of UK-related topics, such as architecture, history, sport, food, customs, etc.

Here is how the game works:

  • on the coach in the morning, we ask a question
  • travelers write their answers on slips of paper and deposit them in the answer bag
  • we tally the answers and the next morning on the coach, we award a small prize to the person with the first correct answer.

Martha & Collie enjoying a Cream Tea at the Duchy of Cornwall Garden Centre

The questions often relate specifically to the focus of the particular tour.  For example, on our Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon Tour, Martha asked “What is the proper way to serve a West Country Cream Tea – jam on top of the clotted cream or clotted cream on top of the jam on the scone?”

It was a trick question.  The correct answer is BOTH.


Cornwall and Devon both agree on the essential elements of a Cream Tea.  There’s the tea, of course, the stronger the better.  Then there are the scones, preferably plain without currents or icing.  The last two ingredients are the clotted cream and the jam.  Clotted cream, a thick, silky, yellow cream, originated in the southwest of England.  It is made by heating unpasturized cow’s milk which is then left in a shallow pan until the cream rises to the top and clots.  The jam is traditionally strawberry, but there are those who suggest that something tarter, such as raspberry, blackcurrant, or even rhubarb, would be acceptable.

The big disagreement comes when you ask people from Cornwall and Devon about the order in which the jam and clotted cream are applied to the scone.  Those from Cornwall declare that the jam goes on the scone first and the cream is piled on top of the jam.  People from Devon are just as adamant that the cream goes on first and then the jam.

_47885730_thecornish   Tuxraider, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Cornish style and Devonshire style Cream Teas

Nick Rodda, of Rodda’s Clotted Cream in Cornwall, says (with tongue firmly in cheek), “We always put our cream on the top because we are proud of it; Devonians are slightly ashamed of theirs so the cover it up with their jam.”

“But”, argue the Devonians, “Devon style keeps the cream off your nose, and it’s just common sense – does anyone put jam on their bread and then butter on top?”

I tend to agree with Paul from Cornwall who said, “Jam on Top?  How do you spread jam on top of cream?”  However, I will admit that with a “proper” thick clotted cream, putting the jam on top wouldn’t be all that difficult.  So which way do you construct you Cream Tea – clotted cream or jam on the top?

Here is one solution to this thorny inter-county conflict:

Foowee, CCASA3.0

(by Mary)


photo credits: title photo-copyright Liyster and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons CC-BY-3.0 license; Martha & Collie-copyright Mary Wallace; cream tea ingredients-copyright Alpha and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons CC ASA 2.0 license; Devonshire cream tea-copyright Tuxraider and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0 license; jam top & bottom-copyright Foowee and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons CC ASA 3.0 license.



  1. Mary for Queen of the Universe! We need pragmatic problem solvers to “reach across the table” and find solutions that respect all viewpoints.

  2. According to Darren our favorite UK coach driver who is from Devon: the Queen has the cream first and the jam on top. “If that’s how the Queen does it, then the Devonshire approach is correct.” Heck, a cream tea is brilliant what ever way it’s served. Martha

    • nice photo,Martha. Hav n’ t seen you in 29 years? Pat

  3. This blog brought back lovely memories of our afternoon tea in London at The Dukes in 2011. What a wonderful tradition! Since our family is originally from Barnstable, I was interested in which approach to eating scones was the correct way.. Thanks for an enjoyable piece.

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