Home About the United Kingdom Cuisine English cream tea: Treat yourself to a classic
Last update on January 06, 2020
Written by Marie Rayner

Food blogger Marie Rayner of The English Kitchen spreads the sweetness around with these tips on how to serve a proper cream tea.

You will find ‘Cream Teas’ on offer throughout the UK, but they are truly a speciality of the SouthWest…Devon and Cornwall areas. I have seen Welsh Cream Teas, as well as Cream Teas, being offered in many other areas of the UK. In general nowadays, they are offered in tearooms across the UK wherever someone wants to give an impression of British influence.

A traditional cream tea is comprised of two fresh scones, strawberry jam, clotted cream and a cup of hot tea. I like to use Sultana Scones. You can find my recipe for those HERE. I promise you, they are delicious!

If you don’t have homemade strawberry jam or preserves (the best), then you should use a really good quality store bought variety. I like to use Bon Maman or TipTree preserves, because they have lots of lovely berry chunks in them.

What is clotted cream?

Rich, thick and indulgent, clotted cream is a delicious cream with the consistency of soft butter. Produced on many dairy farms in SouthWest England, it is made by placing unpastuerized milk in shallow pans over indirect heat. Once warmed it is then left to cool slowly, undisturbed. The cream then rises to the surface and forms ‘clots’ or ‘clouts. It has a nutty, cooked milk flavour, with at least 55 per cent butter fat, giving it a pale yellow colour that is often topped with a deeper yellow crust. It is an essential ingredient in a true ‘Cream Tea’, and makes a fabulously tasty and rich filling for a sponge cake, especially when layered with fresh fruit. It also makes wonderful ice cream.

It’s impossible to send true clotted cream over to North America because of regulations and such, but it is possible for you to make your own, if you wish. There is a long way…and an easy way (which isn’t really clotted cream at all, but tastes pretty good just the same).

The long way

Take two cups of heavy cream and heat it in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until reduced by half. It should be thick and creamy and have a golden crust on top.

The easy way

Beat 8 ounces of cream cheese until fluffy, then whisk in 4 ounces of sour cream and 2 TBS of icing sugar. Put into a serving bowl and chill until ready to use.

Making the tea

We always have herbal tea with ours, because we are Mormons and don’t drink regular tea. However, having worked as a chef in a Manor House for many years, I do know how to make a proper cup of tea.

One of the biggest complaints of English people visiting the United States is that Americans don’t know how to make ‘proper’ tea. Here’s the proper way to do it, and it doesn’t involve dipping a tea bag into a cup and covering it with boiling water.

You must first fill a kettle and bring it to the boil. Just before your kettle has reached boiling point, pour a little hot water into the teapot and allow it to stand for about a minute so that the pot is warm. Empty out the hot water from the nicely warmed pot and put in loose tea or tea bags, whichever you prefer.

When the water is boiling (and not before) pour it onto the tea in the teapot. Leave to brew for 3 or 4 minutes and stir it well before you pour it out into hot cups.

Serve with milk, sugar and lemon wedges and let people add as they please. It is a matter of debate as to whether you add the milk to the cup before the tea, or the tea before the milk.

How to assemble your Cream Tea

Cover your table with a pretty cloth. Set a nice tea plate and warm cup and saucer out for each person, along with a knive and a teaspoon for each. Pretty napkins are a must as well.

Put your clotted cream in a decorative bowl and your preserves in another bowl. Place a tiny spoon in each for serving. Set these out on the table, along with a china plate of fresh sultana scones and warm tea cups. Place the teapot filled with hot tea on the table as well, and then let people help themself to the scones, preserves and clotted cream. (The scones are always served at room temperature and never warm.)

Each person splits their own scones in half, then covers one half with a thick dollop of clotted cream and then the other haf with a nice layer of strawberry jam. I like my cream on the bottom, but there are others that like their cream on the top! It’s all a matter of personal preference and upbringing!

Pour out your hot cup of tea…sit back…and enjoy!

Ahhhh…Cream Teas…they are my only weakness…sigh…

Text and photos: Marie Rayner