Each of the counties of the West Country in the South of England have their Cream Teas: the Cornish Cream Tea, the Devonshire Cream Tea, the Somerset Cream Tea and the Dorset Cream Tea. They all claim the rights to the title of “original Cream Tea”!
A Cream Tea is a form of afternoon tea -
In Cornwall the cream tea was traditionally served with a “Cornish Split” a type of slightly sweet white bread roll, rather than a scone. This was the only difference between Devonshire cream teas which was served with a scone. Traditionally it is important the scone be warm and freshly baked (how to make scones).
It is then split in two, each half is covered with clotted cream (whipped cream just won’t do) and the strawberry jam is put on top. Jam on top of the cream looks pretty is more full of flavour.
Here in the Parade Gardens we recommend to customers to put the jam on first, then the clotted cream and then top with slices of a fresh strawberry. Very delicious indeed!
The exact origins of the “Cream Tea” is disputed, although there is evidence to suggest that the habit of eating bread, cream and jam was recorded at Tavistock Abbey in Devon as early as the 11th century and therefore perhaps a Devonshire Cream Tea can claim the prize for being the original!
Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around 4 o’clock in the afternoon as the evening meal in her household at the time was served fashionably late at 8 o’clock in the evening, which left a long period between lunch and dinner. The Duchess would ask that a tray of tea, sandwiches (bread and butter with a filling invented by the Earl of Sandwich) and cakes be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This soon became a habit and she began inviting friends to join her. This taking of afternoon tea became fashionable at society events where the upper class would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for indulging in this delicious repast which would be served between three and four o’clock.
Occasional you see offered High Tea, but traditionally the upper class would serve a low or afternoon tea round four o’clock before the fashionable promenade at five.
Here in the Parade Gardens was the start of Bath’s promenading route called Harrison’s Walk.
The middle and lower classes would have a more substantial “high” tea later in the day at five or six o’clock in place of a late dinner.
The name ‘High Tea’ derives from the height of the dinner /lunch table at which the meal was served,whilst ‘Low Teas’ were served in elegant drawing rooms on the lower side tables dotted amongst the sofas and chairs.
Perhaps the days remembered in an old song “at half past three everything stops for tea” are sadly gone, however a Cream Tea or Afternoon Low Tea is nowadays a great treat which can be enjoyed at any time of day. Local people often come to enjoy a Cream Tea late morning during a welcome break from shopping in Bath and visitors to the city come to sit quietly to recharge their batteries before going to see the next museum in the city. We make and freshly bake our scones every day, so please come to the Parade Gardens Cafe and try a Cream Tea in Bath at the Parade Gardens Cafe.