There is something which any visitor to Cornwall must not leave without doing, and that is to partake cream tea. Though it can now be found in posh tea rooms all over the globe, the Cornish cream tea experience doesn't get any more authentic than when you enjoy it in the county itself.
Cream tea: tea taken with scones served with jam (preferably strawberry) and clotted cream.
The first historical evidence of cream tea originates from Devon in the 11th century. Despite this, Cornish clotted cream has been awarded the Protected Designation of Origin status in 1998 while Devonshire cream's application is still pending. As expected, this has lead to rivalry between the two counties... it sure looks like cream tea is not just any old afternoon treat, it has become an important part of the culture of Cornwall and Devon.
Aside from the type of clotted cream used, another difference between a Devonshire cream tea and a Cornish cream tea is the manner in which it is consumed. The former has the cream spread on the scone half and topped with jam, while the opposite applies for the latter. In addition, Cornish cream tea was traditionally served with Cornish splits- slightly sweet white bread rolls- instead of scones. However, unless you're having your cream tea in the home of an English family, you're very likely to be served scones instead of Cornish splits.
Cornish cream tea (with scones): the cream goes on top of the jam
Cornish clotted cream should have a creamy and silky consistency, with a mildly nutty taste. It is produced by leaving heated unpasteurized milk- from a Cornish cow, of course- in shallow pans to stand for a minimum of 8 hours, during which the cream rises to the surface, forming golden clots.
You shouldn't need any butter along with your cream tea when you have lush Cornish clotted cream on hand, not when it has a minimum of 55% butterfat content that'll leave your fat tastebuds swelling in delight.
There is also a debate over whether raisins should be included in scones for a cream tea. The slightly flaky interior of a good plain scone (all beautifully risen and soft and fluffy on the inside!) really makes a wonderful pairing with the jam and the rich and smooth texture of the clotted cream. I guess raisins are unnecessary in scones for a cream tea... though fruit scones are lovely on their own as well!
So, this is what you must do in Cornwall, on a lovely afternoon: Head to a respectable tea room, or pick up some freshly-baked scones from the bakery. Slice each scone into two, spread some strawberry jam on top (not firm-set, but not overly drippy either), and cram as much Cornish clotted cream on top as possible. Do not sandwich the two scones halves together.
Take a sip of black tea, bite into the scone and enjoy the unforgettable sensation that follows- the slight firmness of the scone's crust giving away to reveal a warm and fluffy interior, perfectly complemented by the slight sweetness of the jam and the cold, creamy clotted cream.
You won't regret it. Even if it costs a sizeable percentage of your daily caloric intake.
Photos taken at Big Weekend @ Trevaskis Farm. Rodda's is the main manufacturer of Cornish clotted cream.