Cream tea the Devon way holiday cottages

Cream tea the Devon way

Simon L 30 May 2018

We at Stay In Devon know the answer to the cream or jam first debate. It's obviously cream first, though our Cornish neighbours would strongly disagree, insisting the cream must go on last. However, doing what your parents and grandparents do is apparently not the most scientific way of working out the answer to this problem, so we've looked at a real scientist's view on the matter.

Dr Eugenia Cheng from the University of Sheffield's School of Mathematics and Statistics has claimed to have found the answer to the great cream tea debate of jam or cream first. We're excited to find out if we are right!

The most talked about dilemma in the land

cream tea
Doing it the Cornish way


According to Dr Cheng, the perfect cream tea should be assembled jam first (WHAT?), also known as the Cornish way. Apparently, jam, "due to its density", needs to be spread before the cream, as the opposite approach may cause the jam to run off - creating sticky fingers. Dr Cheng said: "Building a good scone is like building a good sandcastle, you need a wider base, and then it needs to get narrower as it goes up so that it doesn't collapse or drip." Hmm - we're not convinced.

Time for a public debate

scones for sale
We put the test to the great British public


We weren't convinced by this logic and so a debate was instantly sparked. We decided the only way to settle this once and for all was to ask the good old British public for their opinions. We hosted a simple poll on our Facebook page and over two days a massive 681 entrants let their voices be heard in the greatest debate the South West has ever seen.

The results were astounding. What we thought would be a close call proved to be very different with 432 people voting in favour of the Cornish way (cream on jam) compared with only 249 voting for the Devon way (jam on cream). It's safe to say that Devon got creamed by its neighbour to the west this time.

But was it fair?

Cream tea with jam on top
We're staying with what we know


You can be sure that this will not be the end of the issue though, as the proud people of Devon will look to avenge this defeat. It could be claimed that in the initial study the scone was not big enough (only 2.8cm thick), or that sticky fingers are part of the enjoyment when eating a cream tea.

One member of the Stay In team pointed out what she believes to be a flaw in Dr Cheng's formula which described the average scone as weighing 70g and requiring 35g of jam and 35g of cream. “This suggests a whole scone is used when scones are more commonly eaten as halves, not sandwiched back together,” said Rozalind Best, Stay In colleague and defender of the Devon way. With this in mind, we'll still put our cream on first until we have proper scientific proof that jam should take the lead.

The takeaway

cream tea
We love a cream tea however it comes!


What we can take from this study is that it has certainly fuelled a passionate debate about the right way to assemble a cream tea. Whether you top your scone with cream or jam, one thing that we can all agree on is that the cream should always be clotted, the jam should be strawberry and homemade, and that this traditional treat is delicious either way. That's good enough for us! Now, if only we knew the correct way to pronounce scone...


After the result of the poll was discovered, we chose three lucky winners and all of them will receive a delicious cream tea to enjoy whichever way they wish courtesy of the awesome Simply Cornish Hampers!

Want to find a great cream tea in Devon?

Cream tea on table

We can recommend a few of our favourites - try the delightful Tea by the Taw in Barnstaple (we know this is about cream teas but be sure to take home a piece of their delicious Valencian orange cake), or the Fremington Quay Cafe, also in Barnstaple and overlooking the Tarka Trail, ideal for working off some calories afterwards! For those who prefer their scones with a savoury twist, head to Tea on the Green in Westward Ho! where you can forget the whole jam and cream debate and sample a cheese and chutney scone in their vintage tea rooms. But what comes first - the cheese or the chutney? Watch this space..

Where to stay:

Devon v Cornwall?

  • Jam then cream? Follow the scientist and hop over to one of our Cornwall cottages, where the cream versus jam density formula still prevails.
  • Cream then jam? Have a peek at our Devon cottages and base yourself amongst people who understand that scones are all about the soul, not science.   

We have a great selection of properties in both Devon and Cornwall if you want to come and try this greatest of debates out for yourself - after all, what better way to spend a holiday than sampling a yummy cream tea every day across two beautiful counties?

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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