Few things are more English than tea and scones. Here we list our picks of the best cream tea in Cornwall and Devon. But, should the jam go on first or the cream?
Although the origins of cream tea are often disputed, according to local Devonshire historians, the act of adding jam and cream to bread was first concocted in Devon in the 11th century by the monks of Tavistock Abbey. Now, an indulgent cream tea is a British institution, and really what could be better than a freshly baked scone (plain or fruit, the choice is yours), with lashings of strawberry jam and a huge dollop of clotted cream, all washed down with a refreshing pot of tea?
Best associated with Devon and Cornwall, there is, however, an ongoing debate as to which is the right way to enjoy your cream tea. Although we think it is probably just a matter of personal preference, those in Devon and Cornwall would strongly disagree. In Devon, the cream is smoothed on the scone, with a dollop of jam on top, while in Cornwall it is the other way around.
Whichever you prefer, what we do know is that the late Queen Elizabeth II was a fan of a cream tea and was known to take hers the Cornish way, with jam (Balmoral jam, of course) first and then cream – surely the Queen of England herself must be right?
From farm shops to tearooms and grand hotels dotted around some of the prettiest spots in the South West, here are some of the places for the best cream tea in Cornwall and Devon.
Best cream tea in Cornwall
The Victorian, red-bricked Headland Hotel is a decadent spot for a traditional Cornish cream tea. Just a five-minute walk from the golden sands of Newquay’s Fistral Beach, the hotel sits on its own idyllic headland spot with some of the best views of the Atlantic in all of Cornwall.
Its traditional cream tea, which comes with home-baked scones, strawberry jam, and the treasured Cornish export that is Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream, is best enjoyed al fresco on the hotel’s sunny sea-facing terrace with a pot of loose-leaf tea, or, if you’re feeling lavish, a glass of champagne.
Nestled on the picturesque Roseland peninsula, next to the St Just in Roseland Church, which is a contender for England’s prettiest church – and right on the water’s edge, Miss V’s Tea Room is the very best of Cornwall rolled up into one experience.
After a peaceful afternoon spent walking the tranquil gardens, Miss V’s is the perfect place to sit and soak up the beautiful surroundings, all while enjoying a delightful Cornish cream tea with freshly baked scones, lashings of clotted cream and local jam – it has been voted one of the top five spots for cream tea in all of Cornwall.
Situated halfway between Wadebridge and Bodmin on Cornwall’s most popular cycle route, the Camel Trail, this tea garden is one of the area’s best-kept secrets, set in a picture-perfect apple orchard and with direct access to the trail for cyclists and walkers.
Sit among the apple trees (the garden is at its best in the springtime) and enjoy oven-fresh scones with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam, all washed down with a pot of tea – an ideal way to while away an afternoon, or an idyllic pitstop on your way along the Camel Trail.
Cream tea at the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery is a luxurious treat. In the heart of the Duchy Estate, the Nursery reflects the most recent Duke’s (now King Charles III) passion for sustainability. Currently undergoing building works, the café is temporarily situated in its Tipi on the woodland terrace, with the main café and new Orangery restaurant opening from mid-May 2023.
The classic cream tea, with a choice of mixed scones, strawberry jam, and Cornish clotted cream, will not disappoint.
Best cream tea in Devon
Set in 100 acres of fairytale gardens, woodlands, and grottos, this idyllic spot, the former hunting lodge of the Duke of Bedford, is probably one of the most beautiful spots in the whole of England for a cream tea.
Admire sweeping views of the River Tamar, stroll through the secret gardens designed by the 18th-century’s finest landscape designer, Humphry Repton, before sitting down in the wood-panelled dining room, terrace, and parterre for a perfectly dainty home-baked scone, piled high with Tip Tree jam and mounds of clotted cream, and served with loose-leaf tea from silver teapots.
It doesn’t get more English than eating a cream tea on a picnic rug in a garden full of roses, and RHS Rosemoor is Devon’s most idyllic spot to do just that.
Whether you choose to have yours in the pretty wisteria-covered tearoom, or pick your favourite spot among the rose beds, orchards, or cottage gardens, the traditional cream tea includes homemade scones (made fresh every morning) with Trewithen clotted cream and a choice of Waterhouse Fayre jams – opt for the whortleberry (a name in Devon given to wild blueberries) for something a little more unusual – washed down with a pot of Devonshire’s finest Miles tea.
As the longest established steam railway in the South West, the South Devon Railway is one of Devon’s best-loved tourist attractions, running along the seven-mile former Great Western Railway line that first opened in 1872.
Whether you choose to have your cream tea aboard one of their incredible steam trains, while admiring the beautiful countryside of the Dart Valley between Buckfastleigh and Totnes, or stop off on your journey at the award-winning Refreshment Rooms at Buckfastleigh Station, their homemade scones are famously enormous.
Probably Devon’s coolest farm shop, Darts Farm near Topsham is also one of the county’s largest and is set on a real working farm, with lots of local and seasonal produce to buy. With incredible views of the banks of the River Clyst (in summer you’ll see their beautiful herd of Ruby Red Devon Cattle grazing), their Cow and Cacao Café serves up a hearty, traditional Devonshire cream tea in a relaxed, rustic environment.
Alternatively, you can take home one of their cream-tea hampers – choose from a classic one or one with an indulgent twist; Savoury Cream Tea, Fizz Cream Tea or G&T Cream Tea anyone?
This is an extract, read the full article in our April/May issue, out Friday 3 March 2023. Get your copy here.