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What is Cream Tea?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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Cream tea, which is also sometimes called "Devonshire tea" or "Cornish cream tea" is a British dish that includes tea served with scones. It is believed that the name of the tea has to do with the tradition of serving tea along with scones that have been topped with clotted cream and fruit preserves. In fact, the name of the tea does not refer to a tea that is taken with cream. Cream tea may be served, though, with a tea that is taken with milk or with no dairy products at all. In the latter case, the tea may be taken with lemon and perhaps a bit of sugar.

There have been some heated disputes over the origin of cream tea, which is considered to be a quintessential British dish. There is evidence that the dish has been enjoyed as far back as the 11th century. In most cases, the cream tea is enjoyed in the early afternoon, but there are many restaurants that serve it in the mornings as well. Although cream tea is a British dish, it is served in tea rooms and restaurants around the world.

The scones that are served with cream tea may be plain or made with dried fruit. The most common dried fruits added to scones are raisins. Some scones are also made with dried cranberries or dried cherries. For a proper cream tea, the scones should be split in half.

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Some recipes for the dish indicate that the clotted cream — which is sometimes substituted with whipped cream — should be spread on the scones first, followed by a topping of jam. Other recipes indicate that the toppings should be added in the reverse order. Jams served with the teas are usually berry jams such as raspberry or strawberry.

In order to prepare the tea, a teapot should be warmed by being filled with warm water and left to sit for a few minutes. Once the pot is warm, the water can be poured out and the tea added. The size of the pot and the desired strength of the tea will determine how much loose tea or how many tea bags — depending on the type of pot being used — should be added. Once the tea has been added to the pot, boiling water should be poured in. The tea should be allowed to steep for three to four minutes before it is served.

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