Today (June 30) is National Cream Tea Day – whether you prefer the local Devonian way of jam first or that of our cousins across the Tamar with cream first it is extremely popular amongst locals and visitors alike.

Venues across the South Hams will be serving up the treat.

Legend has it that the very first “cream teas” were served over 1,000 years ago by the monks of Tavistock Abbey.

It is said that when the Benedictine Abbey was being re-built after being plundered and badly damaged by a horde of marauding Vikings in AD 997, the monks were so grateful to local workers that they rewarded them with bread and “clowted cream”.

Apparently, this proved so popular the monks continued to serve them as a treat to passing travellers.

Not so much scones but a type of yeast bun, less cakey than a scone and more like a semi-sweet roll, they became known in Tavistock as ‘tuffs’.

The Oxford English Dictionary reports the earliest use of “cream tea” in the sense of the afternoon tea, as opposed to a cup of tea with cream in it, is in the 1964 novel “Picture of Millie” by Philip Maitland Hubbard, “We just bathe and moon about and eat cream teas.”

However, the “Foods of England” website has discovered an earlier newspaper cutting, The Cornishman of Thursday September 3 1931 which uses the phrase in what appears to be its modern sense.

Now in its ninth year, National Cream Tea Day has been organised by the Cream Tea Society, itself the idea of a leading clotted cream and a preserve manufacturer to encourage people to come together, enjoy a cream tea and raise money for worthy causes.

General Manager of Salcombe Harbour Hotel Mike Hall said: ‘‘All out cream teas are freshly made on the premises with freshly baked scones and handmade sandwiches.

‘‘We make 25 to 30 cream teas a day and people can sit on the terrace, overlooking the estuary to enjoy them.

‘‘A great pairing is a glass of English sparkling wine.’’

Of the way to eat it Mike said: ‘‘Although we would recommend the Devon way, either is perfectly fine.’’

In Devon, an alternative to the scone found occasionally is the “Devon split” or “Chudleigh” which is lighter than a scone and smaller than a Cornish split.

In Cornwall an alternative was traditionally a “Cornish split”, a type of slightly sweet white bread roll, rather than a scone.

It is now rare to find this available commercially, even in Cornwall, but splits are still used by many Cornish families in their own homes.

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