Ultimate Cream Tea Etiquette

cream tea

Did you know that today (Friday 24th June) is National Cream Tea Day? Well neither did we until about five minutes ago, but it is. And while many may hold this quintessentially British tradition in high esteem, and strive to create a perfect cream tea for an auspicious occasion, it seems most of us will ultimately fail! So we consulted etiquette expert Miss Sue Flay, an ambassador of the Cream Tea Society for her esteemed guidance on how to be the perfect Cream Tea guest.

Pinkies away!

Hold your teacup with all fingers on the handle, but don’t loop your fingers through or cradle your teacup.

sue flayAlways serve your neighbour before yourself

Pour the person next to you a cup of tea, pass the scones or offer the Cornish clotted cream before you take for your own dollop of jam. 

Elbows off the table

This goes without saying. There’s a great phrase; “All joints on the table must be carved”… When food is present at the Cream Tea table, your elbows must be off and your hands in your lap when not eating or drinking. 

Don’t send the tea into a spin

Stir your tea in a “6-12” motion on a clock, don’t “whirlpool” it round and round. Tapping your spoon or “chinking” it on the side of your teacup is simply not good manners, no matter how tempting it may be. Drip dry your teaspoon over your cup and place gently behind the cup on your saucer when finished stirring. 

Never wipe!

Dab your mouth with your napkin, do not wipe! Place the napkin with the fold away from your body to avoid throwing crumbs over yourself.

Break your scone with your fingers

You’ll find a natural crease within any freshly baked scone, so you shouldn’t need to saw it open with a knife.

Always clotted cream on top

Forget what you’ve read about The Great Cream Debate, Cornwall Vs Devon. The Debrett’s guide to proper etiquette states that you should spread the jam first, followed by the clotted cream. From a taste point of view, the silky dairy notes of the clotted cream coat your palate, acting as a buffer against the sweetness of the jam and dryness of the scone beneath – creating the perfect, balanced taste sensation.

“Please do excuse me” 

If you need to excuse yourself from the table, simply say “please do excuse me”. It is then good manners to place your napkin on your chair if you intend to return. There’s no need to go into detail as to why you need to leave.

A time to be social

Mobile phones should be away from the table, however it can be very tempting to take photos of your deliciously enticing Cream Tea to post onto Instagram or Twitter…So personally, I say go for it! #NationalCreamTeaDay

Manners cost nothing

Thank you letters are completely underrated, we just don’t write them as much as we should. A thank you text or email just doesn’t quite have the same gravitas as a beautifully handwritten note, even if just a few words of thanks. This little gesture goes a long way and I urge everybody to try it, your notelet collection will soon grow when you realise what stunning stationary is available.


These scones not only have clotted cream served on them, but incorporated into them too. Light, fluffy and extra special to create as well as eat, they are a new take on the quintessentially British cream tea component.


300g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting and dipping

1 tsp baking powder

50g Rodda’s butter, cut into pieces

50g Rodda’s clotted cream – use the crust and top layer from a 227g pot

50g caster sugar

150ml whole milk

Remaining Rodda’s clotted cream and butter together with a jar of Tiptree jam


Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.

Rub the butter into the flour in the big bowl with your fingertips to create a fine breadcrumb mixture. Remove the crust of the clotted cream and some of the firmer top layer beneath it to make up the 50g required and dollop it into the breadcrumb mixture in clumps. Rub this into the breadcrumb mixture in the same fashion as done with the butter.

Add in the sugar and toss through with your hands, spatula or spoon to combine everything together.

Make a well in the middle of the mixture in the bowl and add the milk, saving a little bit back to paint the top of the scones with. Fold through lightly put firmly with a spatula or spoon until the mixture  comes together.

Sift some flour onto a work surface and your hands. Use your hand to lightly knead and bring the dough together and pick up any dry bits of flour from the base and sides of the bowl before tipping it out onto the floured surface.

Pat or roll out the dough with a rolling pin to approximately 2.5cm deep.

Leave to sit for a few minutes while you cut out some non-stick parchment paper and line a flat baking tray.

Take a 5cm plain circular cutter and dip in some flour sat in a bowl to help prevent the cutter sticking to the dough. Press firmly into the rested dough, try not to twist the cutter but pick up and gently  press out the dough on to the prepared baking sheet.

Repeat until you have cut as many as you can and then gently knead together the remaining dough and re-pat or roll. You are ideally looking at cutting out 10 scones in total.

Brush the top of the scones with the remaining milk and bake near the top of the pre-heated oven for approximately 10-15 minutes until risen and lightly golden brown.

Once baked and allowed to cool slightly slice into two and serve with a dollop of Tiptree jam and remaining Rodda’s clotted cream.

Emily Cleary

Emily Cleary

After almost a decade chasing ambulances, and celebrities, for Fleet Street’s finest, Emily has taken it down a gear and settled for a (slightly!) slower pace of life in the suburbs. With a love of cheese and fine wine, Emily is more likely to be found chasing her toddlers round Kew Gardens than sipping champagne at a showbiz launch nowadays, or grabbing an hour out of her hectic freelancer’s life to chill out in a spa while hubby holds the babies. If only!


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