The British Scone Debate Of 'Cream Or Jam First?' Still Rages On Today

They call it the Great Scone Debate ... or is it the Great British Cream Tea Debate? You see where this is going already, don't you? This particular tiff centers around an issue that, despite its seeming triviality, has embroiled an entire nation in the argument of two counties over whether jam or cream should come first when layering a scone for cream tea. And if the name of the debate alone cannot be settled, how is the debate itself meant to be resolved?

The neighboring counties of Cornwall and Devon in southern Britain each claim that their way of layering a cream tea is the correct way. Now, cream tea is not an actual drink, but an English tradition dating back centuries — though, yes, it does come with tea. It consists of a pot of tea (or coffee if you're feeling particularly nouveau), paired with scones, clotted cream, and jam. Now, Devon claims that the proper way of layering a scone is scone, cream, and then jam. Cornwall disputes this. They claim the proper order is scone, jam, and then velvety clotted cream

However, Cornwall seemingly has the upper hand. The late Queen Elizabeth II revealed that she prefers the Cornish way, which ought to have ended the debate once and for all. However, Devonians are not ones to give up so easily. They cling to their method as being the correct method — and have some compelling history with which to back it up.

The first cream tea?

In the annals of Devon history lie the supposed origins of the first cream tea, served at Tavistock Abbey in the 11th century. The Abbey, having recently been raided by Vikings, had been freshly repaired. The Earl of Devon at the time apparently rewarded the workers with bread, clotted cream, and strawberry jam. While the bread has been replaced by scones, Devonians insist that this first-ever cream tea was served with the clotted cream as a base and jam as a topping.

Cornwall says this is utter nonsense. Why would you put the cream down first? It's just going to melt and slide off the warm scone! Plus, it is far less visually appealing, or so the Cornish say. Yet, back in Devon, they are determined to prove that cream first is not only the traditional — but the correct — way to serve cream tea. Their defense is that, as you would with any piece of bread, layering on the cream is like layering on butter. It serves as a base for the jam to sit upon.

Honestly, neither way affects the taste. So, whether you're on the Cornwall side and like your scones slathered in jam first before being dolloped with clotted cream, or the Devon side where you spread the cream like butter before drizzling on some jam, one part of the argument is beyond the bounds of dispute. Cream tea has been, and always will be, utterly delicious.