Brighton is bustling with quality cafés and tea shops and so to attempt the best cream tea requires a real passion for the tradition.
We’re proud of our cream tea (only £5.60, book here!) – but you’ll no doubt have your own favourites too. Wherever it is served, to be among the best in Brighton, it must meet some exacting standards.
Let’s focus first on the essential elements: the jam, cream and scones. There are definitely a few rules to avoid turning these delights into disasters.
Cream tea essentials: cream, jam and scones
A ‘non-negotiable’ is that clotted cream must be used with the scones; not double, not synthetic and absolutely NOT squirty cream. That would just be wrong, wrong, wrong on every level, especially when it pathetically disintegrates in front of you and, if you can bear to eat it, dissolves in your mouth.
What about the jam? Hands up who says “strawberry every time!”. This, actually, is open to debate. A nice bit of raspberry or even a little plum with earl grey tea is acceptable. But whatever flavour the jam, it should always contain a good amount of fruit – at least 50%. Quality fruit preserve cannot be replaced with a sugary, glutenous alternative.
How about the scones? Don’t even think about shop-bought, even if they boost “all butter” or “amazingingly extra wonderfully special”. There is simply no excuse not to bake your own on the day you intend to serve them.
To add fruit or not to add fruit, though, that is another question! In several tea shops, I have often seen a little pile of dead flies, sorry raisins, at the side of the plate when someone has picked them out of the scone because they wanted a plain one – but there were none available. Choice is a must. I would go further and suggest choices on combinations of fruit and flavourings. Lemon & ginger, strawberry & cinnamon, blueberry & vanilla have all gone down well at my café, Metrodeco in Brighton.
Cream tea: serving etiquette
This is as important as the ingredients. What to put on first – jam or cream? And what is the correct proportion? We always serve a pot of each so the customer can decide. For me personally, it is a very obvious choice and can’t be done any other way. In fact, this blog post was prompted by someone serving me a scone with the cream scraped on like butter then a thick mound of jam swirled into it marble cake style. I actually felt sick.
For me it always has to be jam first and a fairly thin covering followed by a nice thick layer of clotted cream. I would say one quarter jam to three quarters cream. This would be my choice accompanied with a lovely pot of Shades Of Grey (no ladies, not ‘Fifty Shades’, although that really would be the best cream tea in Brighton!).
This post was written by Helen Taggart, co-founder, Metrodeco tea salon in Brighton and server of cream tea! To book your cream tea, dial the café on 01273 677243.