Of course we have to “take tea” at least once, preferably twice, and often even thrice whenever we’re in England. In the west country (Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset), “taking tea” means a Cream Tea, which consists of scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam, and of course, tea.
As is typical of any grand British occasion, there are some serious debates about the proper way one “takes tea”. So here’s a primer:
What the heck is clotted cream?
Clotted cream is a decadent indulgence that’s somewhere between whipped cream and butter: pale yellow and thick like butter, creamy and rich like whipped cream. Clotted cream is made with full-fat unpasteurized cow's milk, although many recipes use heavy cream. To be authentic clotted cream, it needs to contain about 55% butterfat. The milk or cream is heated in a shallow pan until the cream rises to the top and thickens or clots. The thickened cream is then skimmed off the top. Personally I think there should be a better word than “clotted”.
The cream may be called Devon Clotted Cream or Cornish Clotted Cream, depending on where it was made. Cornish clotted cream holds an EU Protection of Designated Origin. The rich Cornish grass gives the clotted cream its trademark yellow color.
Jam first or cream first?
You may not think it matters, but which item you spread on your scone first is a bit of a (friendly but insistent) controversy. Both Devon and Cornwall Cream Teas include the same items: tea, scones, jam, and clotted cream. In Devon, the scones are split in two and topped with cream followed by jam. In Cornwall, the split scones are topped with jam and then cream. Totally your choice of course! We go back and forth so as not to offend either county.