What is a cream tea?

What comes to mind when you think of quintessential British meals? Many would agree that fish and chips, bangers and mash, roast dinners, and of course, cream teas would top that list.  Cream teas are perfect for sharing with friends and family on warm summer afternoons.  As today is National Cream Tea Day, we thought we should address the question of what exactly is in a cream tea?  You might also like to know; how do I make a cream tea? Should the cream be spread first, or the jam? And most importantly, what is the best tea to serve with a cream tea? Please read on to discover the answer to these pressing questions, and more.


The history of cream tea 

It is thought that the earliest form of cream tea was enjoyed at Tavistock Abbey, Devon, in the eleventh century[i].  The abbey had been damaged during a Viking attack and, according to Devon historians, the labourers were offered bread with cream and jam to sustain them while they worked.  Of course, tea was not introduced into Britain until the seventeenth century so the Abbey builders may well have been drinking ale with their meal, which is not how we picture a cream tea today!


So, what is in a cream tea?

Cream tea as we know it today is made up of freshly made scones, warm from the oven, broken open by hand and layered with a fruity jam and thick clotted cream.  There is debate amongst cream tea purists as to whether the jam should be applied first, or the cream.  Whichever way you prefer, the scones must be accompanied with a pot of piping hot tea. Traditionally, that tea might be a blend such as Twenty Four Seven or Afternoon Perks.  At Twist we have been hard at work in our blending room and have come up with a new taste sensation: the aptly named Cream Tea. A mix of Sri Lankan black tea, apple pieces, hibiscus, elderberries, rosehip and freeze-dried strawberries, this blend is the perfect accompaniment to a cream tea.


Is it afternoon tea or cream tea?

One of the eight times of the day to enjoy tea, cream tea refers to scones with jam and clotted cream, served with tea.  Although a cream tea is traditionally enjoyed in the afternoon, it differs from afternoon tea in that it does not include finger sandwiches or pastries.  Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures that are the best!


How do I make cream tea?

During the first lockdown in 2020, there was a surge in Google searches for cream teas and afternoon teas available for delivery, as people sought ways to cheer themselves and loved ones up[ii]. In 2021 our options have broadened, and we can now choose to go out for our cream tea treats if we wish.  We can also have our friends and family over, which means we can make a cream tea to share in our own homes.

In celebration of National Cream Tea Day, we have whipped up a batch of scones in the Twist kitchen.  We’ve added our own Twist to the recipe by infusing the butter with our new tea blend, Cream Tea. The result is a light and fluffy scone with a subtle tea flavour that is delicious topped with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Don’t forget to brew yourself a pot of Cream Tea to enjoy with your scones!


For a stronger tea flavour, try adding a handful of tea-soaked sultanas to your scone dough.

Cream Tea infused scones

Makes approximately 10 medium sized scones.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 10-15 minutes


  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 60g butter
  • 25g golden caster sugar
  • approximately 100ml buttermilk
  • 3 tea bags Twist’s Cream Tea



1. Preheat oven to 220°C/200°C fan forced.

2. Line one baking tray with baking paper.

3. In a saucepan, heat the butter until just liquid, before adding the Cream Tea leaves and keeping on a low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the butter from the heat and allow to sit for another 5 minutes, or longer if you prefer a stronger flavour.  Sieve the tea leaves from the butter (try to get as much of the butter out, but don’t worry too much as some butter loss is inevitable) and allow to cool until the butter is back to room temperature.

4. In a mixing bowl, add the flour and baking powder. Set a small amount of butter to the side for brushing the scones before baking. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

5. Pour in the buttermilk and combine to form a dough.

6. Scoop out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Use a rolling pin to roll it out until approximately 1-2cm thick.  Cut your scones with a fluted 5cm diameter cutter (try not to twist the cutter as you do this) to create medium-sized scones and place on the baking trays.  Brush the tops with the left-over butter/tea mix.

7. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden in colour.

8. Enjoy with friends or family straight from the oven with clotted cream, fruity jam and of course, a piping hot pot of tea.


For the all-important pot of tea, ensure you have a caddy of Twist’s premium hand blended tea at the ready.  We suggest our new blend, Cream Tea, but you may prefer one of our other teas.  Black teas, Green teas and Rooibos teas are all recommended for enjoyment with a cream tea.


Devon cream tea vs Cornish cream tea

While cream teas can be found in many tearooms across the UK, there is a long-standing argument between the counties of Cornwall and Devon as to the correct method of assembling your scone.  If you order a cream tea in Cornwall, they will insist that the jam goes first, with cream on top.  But venture over the border to Devon, and it’s a different story.  The Devon cream tea method is for cream to go first, then jam.


Phew.  It might just sound like a storm in a teacup to many, but this issue causes much debate amongst scone afficionados.  If you are still not sure, why not follow the Queen’s example.  According to a former Royal Family chef, the Queen prefers her scones with jam applied first and cream on top[iii].  Whether you decide to apply jam first to your scone, or cream, whatever you do, etiquette dictates that you must never use whipped cream!


So, there you have it, the low down on the humble cream tea.  How will you enjoy yours on National Cream Tea Day? 


[ii] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52771095

[iii] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/queen-scones-jam-cream-what-goes-first-debate-cream-tea-outrage-a8260686.html