Right, lets get down to the details. What makes a good cream tea?
Here are some necessities that we (Mr and Mrs CT Crazy) look for in a cream tea. If a particular teashop experience is missing some or all of these features, it severely loses points in our eyes.
1. More than one type of tea.
I'm afraid I'm a bit of a stickler for a choice of teas. I am not really satisfied with 'bog standard' or 'Builders' tea'. I prefer Earl Grey, and so it really matters to me if that is available.
2. China teapot and teacups.
This is an essential. My heart sinks if those 'British Rail' type stainless steel teapots are brought out. Their handles get too hot, and they invariably are lousy pourers, so most of the tea goes on the table instead of in the cup. More points are given for pretty vintage teacups and saucers, naturally.
3. Large scones.
Scones need to be big. There's no good in piddly little frou-frou scones - no thank you.
4. At least two scones.
This seems to me to be a basic requirement. I don't like to see teashops scrimping on what's most important.
5. Choice of scones.
In an ideal world, for maximum points, there would also be a choice of scones - for example, sultana, cherry, plain or even (yuk) cheese scones.
6. The scones need to be warm.
Scones obviously should be fresh and warm. It's better if the scones are straight out of the oven, but warmed up in a microwave is OK too, just about.
7. Clotted cream.
I don't care whether you put the jam on first or the cream, but the cream has to be clotted. Clotted cream is an absolute must. Whipped cream just does not cut the mustard. The clotted cream should have the little crust on the top too. This should go without saying.
8. Jam and cream provision
The jam and cream (and butter if it is provided) should come in little jars, tubs or ramekins, but NOT in pre-packed sachets. And don't get me started on the little foil packets of butter!
9. Choice of jam.
I like raspberry jam, but my husband likes strawberry. Sometimes, you just want to mix things up a bit and try blackcurrant or even....honey! (I'll do another post on the 'thunder and lightning' cream tea later). Choice is good.
10. Extra hot water.
If you're anything like us, one or two cups of tea is not quite enough. It is always nice to have more hot water at the table, so you don't have to bother the server to get more. It's just a nice little thought that makes a big difference.
It is surprising how many teashops or tearooms miss out on one or more of these (we think) essential items. To me, serving jam in individual sachets seems like a false economy, or serving hot tea in metal teapots just silly - it is bound to drive customers away!