Cornish cream tea etiquette

Date Posted: 2 Jun 2024

Enjoying a traditional cream tea when you’re in Cornwall is surely a holiday highlight?

Since becoming popular during the 1850s because of the great tourism boom, most visitors treat themselves to at least one while they’re visiting.

However, enjoying the tasty refreshment can be fraught with questions.

Is there a correct time of day to eat a cream tea? Should the scones be plain or fruity? Is there a difference between a Cornish and Devon cream tea and more importantly do you put the cream on before the jam?

Private dining chef, Dave Sargent, who was born and raised in North Cornwall said: “A cream tea is a perfect pick-me-up to have mid afternoon – and isn’t to be confused with afternoon tea which is a meal in itself.

“A cream tea should consist of plain and fruit scones, jam, clotted cream and a pot of tea.”
“Ideally the scone is served warm and the cream is clotted – and from Cornwall.”
“There are some minor differences in the way that the tea is served in different counties.”
“In Devon, the scones are cut in half and topped with cream followed by jam.”
“In Cornwall, we cut our scones in half, serve jam (ideally strawberry) and then cream.”

Dave, who published his first book this year A Private Table: Recipes & Thoughts of a Private ChefA Private Table: Recipes & Thoughts of a Private Chef added: “There are so many great places in the county that serve delicious cream teas and afternoon teas.”

Here, Natasha Harding has chosen ten of the best.


Buffy’s is tucked away on Belle Vue, in the middle of Bude and open every day between 10.00 am – 3.00 pm. Their cream teas are a new addition to the menu and are made on site by owner and chef Dave Flanagan. For £6.50, you’ll be served a cup of tea or coffee by some of the friendliest staff in Cornwall as well as two plain scones, a generous ramekin of clotted cream and jam. If you prefer the savoury option, you can upgrade and your scones will be accompanied by cheese and chutney.

Duchy of Cornwall Nursery

With beautiful views and glimpses of Restormel Castle in the distance, tea at Duchy of Cornwall Nursery in Lostwithiel is a lovely experience. The cream tea is £8.50 per person and you’ll enjoy two freshly baked scones, Cornish clotted cream, strawberry jam and Cornish tea. For a special occasion, afternoon tea is served from 2.30 pm Monday – Saturday and from 2 pm on Sunday in The Orangery and must be booked 24 hours in advance. Your mouth-watering sweet and savoury fare is served on a three-tiered stand with flavours taking inspiration from the nursery and seasons.

St Michaels Resort

There’s nothing like enjoying a cuppa with a view, and St Michaels Resort which overlooks Falmouth Bay is an ideal place to drink in style. Their Jam First Cornish Cream Tea is beautifully presented and available daily. It comes with two home-made scones with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry jam with a choice of tea or coffee. On Saturday you can order Their Little Bit Fancy St Michaels Afternoon Tea between 12.00 noon and 2.00 pm in the Brasserie on the Bay restaurant – which can be made even fancier with a glass of Prosecco or Champagne.

The Alverton

Although it’s walking distance into Truro, The Alverton is a peaceful sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city. Depending on the weather, tea can be enjoyed on the terrace or inside, next to the roaring fire. Both options afford views across the beautiful gardens and time to chill. A traditional cream tea is £11 and served daily. If you’re looking for that bit extra, book in advance for afternoon tea where you’ll dine on finger sandwiches, home baked scones with Cornish clotted cream and jam followed by delicious miniature cakes. For an extra touch, enjoy an Alverton infused G&T for £7.50.

Housel Bay

Housel Bay hotel can be found perched above Housel Cove, on the top of the most southerly tip of mainland Britain, very close to the fully operational Lizard Lighthouse. Food is a big deal, and Head Chef Joseph Fallowfield prides himself on showcasing the very best of Cornish produce. The Terrace offers spectacular views across the Atlantic and is where you can enjoy a Cornish Cream Tea everyday between 12.00 noon and 4.30 pm. Afternoon Tea is well priced at £19.50, and needs to be pre-booked in advance. It can be taken in The Terrace, the beautiful cliff top garden, or as a takeaway to the beach.

Healeys Cornish Cyder farm

The family-run farm, which is the county’s largest independent cyder-maker is home to the delicious Rattler Cornish Cider – and a great place to pop in for tea too.

Served in The Old Bottlery, their Cornish Cream Tea is scrumptiously original. Choose from traditional, seasonal, cheesy or a trio of all three from £8.25 per person. The HUGE scones are made from scratch on the farm alongside their own jams, chutneys and served with Trewithen Cornish clotted cream and a choice of tea or coffee – which comes from Freehand Coffee Roasters in Redruth. Jam lovers can even buy their own jar for £4.05 and enjoy it at home, flavours include strawberry and blackcurrant.

The Little Pig

Conveniently located on the A39, The Little Pig farm shop, which is open between 9 am – 4 pm, offers delicious, locally sourced food in lovely surroundings. Their Cornish Cream Tea is served daily and for £8.75, includes a pot of tea for one, two homemade scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam. If you’re not a tea-drinker, you can order a Cornish Cream No-Tea for £6.75 and select another drink from the menu – the milkshakes go down particularly well with the kids. For an additional sweet treat, freshly-made cakes with choices including brownies and carrot cake are on offer.

Ugly Butterfly

If you’re looking for a luxurious experience like no other, then Ugly Butterfly is the place to book. Located at Carbis Bay Estate, St Ives, afternoon tea with a side of panoramic views of the beautiful coastline are on offer for £45 per person. Created by renowned chef Adam Handling, who’s passionate about reducing food waste, you will feast on delights such as crab doughnut, lemon peel puree, lamb spiced tartare – and scones of course. Tregothnan Tea is served – the leaves are locally grown on the Tregothnan Estate in Tresillian.


You’ll be spoilt for choice with the offerings at Polurrian, one of Cornwall’s most distinguished hotels. Tea is available on the Terrace or Vista Lounge every day, both of which offer the most breathtaking outlook of the ocean and coastline. Choose from a cream tea, savoury tea, vegan tea or savoury tea with cheese from £9.50 per person. If you’re feeling peckish, go the whole hog with afternoon tea, which is £19.50 per person. I particularly like the fact that children are also included with a special afternoon tea for £9.50.

The Cornish Cove Tearoom

The stunning fishing village of Port Isaac is home to the phenomenally popular Doc Martin as well as shanty singers Fishermen’s Friends. The small, but perfectly formed Cornish Cove offers a warm welcome as well as delicious homemade cream teas for £5.50, which are served daily from 12 noon.If you want to push the boat out, then book an afternoon tea in advance and for £22.50 per person, enjoy a selection of finger sandwiches, scones and cakes.

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