Monday, 28 November 2011

The Conspiracy of Cream Teas

Now, we know that more than most people in this world I love a cream tea. I dream of them, I seek them out wherever I go, I champion them … I obsess. But even through my clotted cream coloured glasses I know in my heart that there is a cream tea conspiracy.
Just think about what a cream tea contains. Scones – flour, butter, sugar, eggs, processed fruit if you are lucky.. Combine this with high sugar jam.. and then you have the clotted cream – I just looked at the typical nutritional value of a tub of clotted cream and it is 97% fat, 3% carbs… essentially no nutritional value whatsoever. Clotted cream = heart attack. That is the only sensible conclusion I can draw from this. And as you eat your scones you wash it down with tea, the least you could do is drink skimmed milk and avoid sugar but no, we all take it that little bit too far don’t we, pouring thick whole fat milk into our tea so it goes all creamy and pale. What gluttony.
A cream tea is high fat, high calorie, low nutritional food and yet we see it as something dignified, indulgent yes, but not frowned down upon. Yet if you caught me unwrapping a large donner kebab with garlic sauce and onions you would wrinkle your nose and lecture me upon the calories. Lets get some perspective here, clotted cream is 97% fat!! Its packing more calories than a sara lee gateaux and a dominoes meat feast combined (okay that’s a lie) but how come if you witnessed me leaving dominoes you would raise an eyebrow and go ‘oh..sarah you pig’ and I would feel shame wash over me. Yet when you see me trowling clotted cream into my gob you smile and say ‘oh how dignified, how delightful, how civilised!’ It’s madness!
Cream teas are my little partners in crime, my conspirator against all those super healthy eaters out there. I like to think I eat well, it is certainly perceived by others that I am a healthy eater so when I wish to indulge the safe option is the cream tea. Admitting I ate a gingsters pasty followed by a kit kat chunky would evoke disgust in my colleagues. I know this so I hide behind the glamour of the cream tea. Long live the conspiracy and long live my greed.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Cream Tea reviews thus far ...

The Criteria
This has taken some serious thought on my part. What makes the perfect cream tea? Criteria must cover all the main elements of a cream tea and therefore could run the risk of being quite boring and just going through the motions. Some imagination and emotion is needed in the critiquing process – with this in mind, my scoring system is as follows:
1.   Appearance – are the scones large and fluffy enough? Is the cutlery matching, the plates sparkling, is there a well decorated china set and a classy looking teapot?
2.   Quantity – are they stingy on the clotted cream? Do the scones look deflated?
3.   Taste – are the scones salty? Is the jam fruity enough? Is the tea too weak?
4.   Price – Coming from Grimsby, I am cheaper than most so adjust your amazement/indignation accordingly.
5.   Ambience – did screaming kids knock into you as you tried to delicately spread your jam? If so, mark the place down! Probably a bit harsh.. but cream teas should be treated with reverence therefore a church like atmosphere should be encouraged – everyone silently eating their food, every now and again praying to it.
6.   How did the cream tea make you feel? – now this is totally personal. Did you get that ‘I’m so full I feel sick but I like it’ feeling or did you get that ‘I still feel hungry and downright outraged at the meagre portion of jam to cream ratio’. Emotions matter when it comes to food. Well it does for food stalkers such as me.
June 2011

Woods Cafe, Cardinham Woods, Bodmin
This was my first cream tea experience as described in my previous post. This was the site where a passing interest became a gripping obsession – my waistline thinks this place has a lot to answer for.
1.    8/10. Huge fluffy perfectly beiged scones (choice of plain or fruited – I do appreciate being given a choice), Cath Kidston style crockery, dainty teacups.
2.    9/10 – scones were huge; I had that nicely full feeling after completion. Just the right amount of jam and cream but marked it a 9 because there can never really be too much jam and cream.
3.    9/10 – scones were just right texture and taste, jam was fruity and not too sweet, tea was good but not memorable so it gets a 9.
4.    £4.95 was really good value for what you get. 9/10 on price.
5.    7/10 – lovely surroundings and great interior. Do remember it being a bit chilly inside for the time of year though.
6.    7/10 – Now this isn’t really fair to Woods Café because there wasn’t the build up to the cream tea that there usually is with me. I was looking forward to it as much as I do any treat … therefore was no butterflies in the stomach, no mouth salivating (well maybe a bit). I just wasn’t in the cream tea zone. If I was then the score would of been higher.
Overall score 49/60
July 2011
Lincoln – café on High Street whose name escapes me (sorry I will endeavour to do better in my future reviews – to be fair the Cream Tea Diaries wasn’t even a shadow of a thought in my mind at this point so I didn’t pay much attention to place names – especially when the cream tea was poor…)
1.    3/10 – bog standard scones, looked like they had come out of a Morrisons pack and messily cut in half (so one part of your scone is thin, one thick…pet hate!), jam that came in little tubs – pre bought again! Literally nothing was home made. Mismatched crockery and cutlery. Disgraceful. All it was lacking was ‘Evidently the North cannot produce even an average cream tea’ smeared in jam on the plate!
2.    4/10 – scones were a fair size but miniscule amounts of jam and the cream…it was whipped cream!! I was astounded, devastated, embarrassed and shocked to my core…whipped cream…whipped cream… eurgh.
3.    2/10 – dry supermarket bought scones. Cheap packaged jam. Whipped cream that I couldn’t even look at whilst I ate.
4.    1/10 – it was roughly £5. Shocking charge for the most inferior cream tea ever produced.
5.    5/10 – interior was quaint, in a modified church building but was cold for the time of year and the waitress seemed in a foul mood.
6.    0/10 – I felt ashamed to be from Lincolnshire.
Overall score – 15/60
August 2011
Totnes – in a café near the river, opposite a wedding dress shop (I am determined to find the name out)
1.    7/10 – decent sized scones, fairly well presented but not memorable which indicates to me they were just above average on appearance.
2.    8/10 – Just the right amount of jam and cream, felt suitably full but not bloated.
3.    7/10 – nicely risen scones, fruity jam, thick cream and good tea.
4.    6/10 – approximately £7 for a cream tea if I remember. Considering it wasn’t the best cream tea I’ve ever had then I think price isn’t in proportion to the product.
5.    8/10 – lovely setting, had a seat by the window where you can nosey on shoppers in Totnes, nice airy light room with attentive waiter.
6.    7/10 – I ate this cream on a date and it was one of those very-beginning-of seeing-one-another dates so I was concentrating more on a) not spilling jam or cream all down myself b) ensuring no jam pips were in my teeth c) being attentive to my date and not revealing how much of a greedy food freak I am. This experience was less about the cream teas and more about the date.
Overall score – 43/60
August 2011
Tudor Rose Tea Rooms, Barbican, Plymouth
My first Plymouth cream tea…
1.    7/10 - The cream teas came out on a nice little tiered tray with a mixture of fruited and plain scones, matching crockery (although no nice little patterns on it).
2.    8/10 - Good sized fluffy scones and generous cream and jam portions.
3.    9/10 – the scones were beautifully made, tasted superb.
4.    8/10 - £5.50, reasonable.
5.    9/10 – Nice little tearooms with attentive staff and not too cramped, feels like you’re having tea in someone’s front room (if you like that sort of thing).
6.    9/10 – came away from here feeling full and satisfied and have recommended it to several others since. It was also my parent’s first cream tea experience and they loved it.
Overall score – 50/60

September 2011
1.    7/10 – Matching crockery, old fashioned bone china teapot and cups which set the scene, everything was well presented but the size of the scones. They looked more like dumplings.
2.    8/10 – although the scones were small and flattened, this is the first establishment I have been in that provided TWO types of jam. This, in my opinion, is a cream tea revolution. I was bobbing along happily enough before with one type and then in separate ramekins comes out raspberry and blackberry jam. This is the future people; blackberry jam on scones is a friggin delight.
3.    10/10 – although the scones were small they tasted beautiful and with the added shock factor of blackberry jam I was in cream tea heaven.
4.    8/10 – price was reasonable, about £5, so your average cream tea price.
5.    6/10 – I wasn’t a huge fan of the venue. It was very small so quite cramped and they had some poor girl of about 15 trussed up in an old maids outfit complete with frilly pinafore. She looked embarrassed and overworked. Although if you want to really hark back to the days of imperialist Britain then to have an exploited flustered looking slave child serve you cream teas really does set the mood.
6.    7/10 – once again this isn’t really the fault of the establishment but because I had eaten a huge burger and had about 4 bottles of crabbies (Christ, I am literally a 50 year old man) I was feeling a little queasy upon finishing my last bite of scone.
Overall score – 46/60

October 2011
Two Bridges Hotel, Dartmoor.

Now I know this was officially an afternoon tea (and not a traditional cream tea)…but the tier containing my beloved scones was the centrepiece in my mind, sandwiches and cakes mere appetizers…
1.    10/10 – impeccable appearance, 3 tiers of afternoon tea loveliness, with a ramekin absolutely brimming with clotted cream.
2.    9/10 – large scones, lots of cream, could of done with maybe a bit more jam.
3.    9/10 – perfectly baked scones, cream with some crust visible (one of the most sexual images ever) and fruity jam.
4.    6/10 – steep prices for afternoon tea, but you pay for the experience and the food is lovely.. but still a fair whack to pay.
5.    10/10 – if you’re looking to pretend like you’re aristocracy just come back from a  hard days hunting then this is the place. Big open fires with plushy old fashioned chairs, it even came with snotty nosed haughty sounding customers just in case you didn’t feel like you were surrounded by quite enough privilege.
6.    10/10 – I felt full, I felt warm, I felt happy and pampered. Definitely go here if you feel like a proper treat.
Overall score – 54/60 (current leader)

Upon writing this i realised i haven't yet had a cream tea in November! Only one thing for it then...

Friday, 11 November 2011

For the love of Cream Teas

Perfectly risen fluffy crumbly scones. Ramekins brimming with thick fruity jam and generous helpings of clotted cream (preferably with top crust intact). This, to me, is the perfect image. Alongside is a bone china teapot, holding quintessentially English Earl Grey, with dainty teacups and saucers..and if you want to be as traditional as possible then swap the Earl Grey for loose tea leaves and strainer. (A bit of a faff I think .. and often to me the tea is there just to provide the necessary moisture to allow me to wash down the main act)

My love of cream teas began a short while ago, in June 2011, when I had my first cream tea experience. It was at a little cafe in Cardinham Woods, Bodmin. A kitsch little place, all bunting and Cath Kidston style tablecloths, probably the perfect venue for my first encounter. Surprisingly, this wasn't a monumental occasion for me. I just wasn't aware of how special cream teas were and although I was excited to be eating something sweet I wasn't specifically anticipating the cream tea experience. However, that first taste has changed my priorities forever. Now when I am planning a trip, I always think of my proximity to the nearest cream tea selling establishment. Prior to June 2011 you would have caught me enjoying my tea with something as mundane as a slice of carrot cake. Those days have gone!

I have decided to use this blog as a chance to discuss all things cream tea - experiences, reviews, recipes ..but also all things South West. For me, my love of cream teas is inextricably linked with my love for Plymouth and the South West. Before I moved down here I knew little to nothing of the South West. I think my only thoughts on the area was that those in Bristol sound like Vicky Pollard and a lot of people were farmers. So yes, a very ignorant view point indeed! Since living here my opinion has completely changed - I have gone from indifference to being proud to call it home..

Let the cream tea obsession  continue!