Cream Tea Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea." ~ Henry James (1843-1916)
Afternoon tea, a light meal composed of three course offerings of tea sandwiches and savories, followed by scones with clotted cream and jam, and ending with sweet pastries, is the heartier version of a Cream Tea, with just the tea and scones course. Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o'clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o'clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her. The afternoon pause for tea became a fashionable social event and by the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea and delicious gossip which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock, often on elegant low-backed chairs (leading to its other name, low tea). It's always time for tea!
Today is International Cream Tea Day!
For International Tea day we focus on the cream tea - the classic afternoon tea started by the Duchess of Bedford, lifelong friend of Queen Victoria and Lady of the Bedchamber between 1837 and 1841. What started out as simply ordering tea and treats to her room soon evolved into the custom we enjoy today.
By the middle of the 19th century, afternoon tea was an every day occurrence; a selection of sandwiches, cakes, scones, cream and jam. Traditionally, the jam was strawberry. And the cream was always clotted.
Clotted cream (sometimes called scalded, clouted, Devonshire or Cornish cream) is a thick cream made by indirectly heating full-cream cow's milk then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly. During this time, the cream content rises to the surface and forms "clots" or "clouts".
Do you prefer cream then jam, or jam then cream? It’s the difference between the Cornish and the Devonshire cream tea and the cause of much controversy.
The Devonshire (or Devon) method is to split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted cream, and then add strawberry jam on top.
In Cornwall, the cream tea was traditionally served with a "Cornish split", a type of slightly sweet white bread roll, rather than a scone. The warm roll (or scone) is first buttered, then spread with strawberry jam, and finally topped with a spoonful of clotted cream.
Another variation is called "Thunder and Lightning", which consists of a round of bread, topped with clotted cream and golden syrup, honey, or treacle.
If all this has made you long for tea, you might be interested by this special collection of photographs representing food descriptions from literature, beginning with one of the most famous teas, the Mad Tea Party from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Click the photograph below for more literary meal tableaux by Charles Roux.