Cream or jam first? Afternoon tea expert settles scone debate

Watch: "I'm an afternoon tea expert - you should pronounce scone to rhyme with 'cone' and put the cream on first"

It's the age-old discussion - whether the cream or jam is dolloped on first during afternoon tea. But one expert has seemingly settled the great scone debate once and for all.

The issue, which has had Devon and Cornwall at loggerheads for decades, has finally been put to bed by an afternoon tea specialist and it seems that Devonians have come out on top as she says the cream should always come first.

Jane Malyon, 65, from Uttlesford, Essex - who runs a company selling afternoon tea hampers - spends every day eating and talking about the typically British delicacy.

She has tasted hundreds of different teas, scones, jams and triangle sandwiches to find the perfect combo - and even gives professional talks about how to do a proper afternoon tea.

Despite believing that the cream should always come first, Malyon says she finds more people tend to do the opposite, which is the Cornish way.

Read more: Britain's favourite cake has been revealed and it's not Victoria sponge

Malyon says those from Cornwall consider cream to be the "crowning glory on top" of their scone, but those who layer the cream on first see it like butter on toast, which you put on before jam.

"I do cream first," she settles. "I feel drawn to putting the dairy on first.

"But the fierce side come out fighting for jam first.

"If you say cream first, they're all over you like a rash."

Jane Malyon says you should add the cream before the jam when having afternoon tea. (Getty Images)
An afternoon tea expert has settled the great afternoon tea debate about whether you should put jam or cream on your scone first. (Getty Images)

Where do celebrity chefs stand on the cream vs jam first debate?

The cream or jam first conundrum is even a contentious issue in the world of celebrity chefs with Tom Kerridge recently reigniting the debate after revealing he is a fan of spreading the jam on a scone before the cream.

Responding on Twitter to comedian Dawn French, a passionate advocate of the Cornish way, which is to put jam on first, Kerridge wrote: "You’re bonkers mate.... it’s definitely cream first, and a truckload of it!! #creamfirst"

Ever the diplomat, Mary Berry, had claimed it was possible to be in camp 'Devon' or 'Cornwall', offering a third option to lovers of afternoon tea.

The TV baker controversially said that she puts jam first, and then clotted cream in the Cornish style on one side of her scone, and then cream followed by jam on the other side, as those in Devon do.

Even our late Queen had a view on the debate with her majesty reportedly preferring to add her jam first.

Ahead of the late monarch's jubilee celebrations earlier this year her head chef Chris Tombling revealed that at Buckingham Palace the cream is always smeared onto the scone first, followed by a good dollop of jam.

During a special episode of This Morning TV chef Phil Vickery was given a tour of the Palace kitchens by Tombling who then prepared some delicious scones ahead of a garden party - and confirmed that the cream most definitely comes first.

Speaking to Vickery afterwards, This Morning host Holly Willoughby said: "The big question is, 'Has the controversial cream tea debate been settled?'"

"I've got to sit on the fence here", said Vickery. "Chris showed me that way and because we are here that is the way it is done."

Other afternoon tea best practices

As well as offering her own expert take on the classic British debate, Malyon, who runs the English Cream Tea Company, has cleared up a few other afternoon tea discussions, including how the traditional British treat should be pronounced - "sc-oh-n" or "sc-on".

"I say it like it rhymes with 'cone' personally, but Her Majesty did always say 'sc-on'," she explains.

"I think more people say 'sc-oh-n' but the ones who say 'sc-on' swear they're the only ones that say it right.

"Posh people definitely say 'sc-on' - but ultimately both are valid."

Read more: Breakfast in a mug? Yorkshire Tea launches toast and jam flavour combo

Jane Malyon says you should add the cream before the jam when having afternoon tea. (James Linsell-Clark/SWNS)
Jane Malyon says you should add the cream before the jam when having afternoon tea. (James Linsell-Clark/SWNS)

When it comes to the brew she favours with her afternoon tea, the expert said she personally opts for a cup of Earl Grey. But, for those who swear by English Breakfast, she suggests the best cuppa comes from loose leaves rather than bags.

"With teabags you get the dust, the stuff that's left over, but the loose leaves are unbroken, and that's the best stuff," she explains. "Actually what you're 'supposed' to do when serving tea is pour the black tea from the pot into the mug and then hand the person the milk and sugar to add for themselves," she adds.

"It doesn't always work like that in real life, but that's the proper way."

While she is an advocate of a teapot and loose leaf tea, for those who don't have the luxury she recommends Yorkshire teabags. "If you're going for a teabag, you don't want something so pale that when you add the milk it looks all washed out," she says.

In her capacity as an afternoon tea expert Malyon says she has tried hundreds of different teas, and her company sells every brew from chocolate flavoured to apple pie and even barbeque flavoured smokey tea. She also tries new flavours of cakes every day and says you can even match different types of tea with the food you're eating, just like wine pairing.

As well as the classic scone Malyon's favourite cakes for afternoon tea are a mille-feuille and a coffee and walnut slice.

Meanwhile for savouries, her favourite sandwich is "smoked salmon with lots of lemon and black pepper". She also suggests the perfect afternoon tea should be booked for around 1pm, explaining that many make the mistake of treating it as a snack rather than a full meal.

This means they often eat before the arrive and are then too full to appreciate the food.

Read more: The science behind making the perfect cup of tea

Malyon says you should pronounce scone to rhyme with 'cone' - and put the cream on first. (Getty Images)
Malyon says you should pronounce scone to rhyme with 'cone' - and put the cream on first. (Getty Images)

Malyon's top tips for hosting the perfect afternoon tea

- Prepare sandwiches the day before with generous fillings and lots of seasoning and butter. Cut them on the day but leave them well-covered with a damp kitchen towel and clingfilm until the last moment to prevent them going dry.

- Aim for a minimum of three choices of cake and offer contrasts - for example, don't offer three different types of sponge - you want different textures.

- Put darker sandwich fillings into white bread, such as ham and mustard, and lighter coloured fillings into brown bread, such as egg mayonnaise or cheddar and onion relish, for contrast.

- Always think about garnishes to lift the appearance of the savoury or sweet goodies. For savoury, add thin slices of red pepper with a sprig of rosemary through it, radish ‘waterlilies’ or cherry tomato halves. For sweet, add mint sprigs and halved strawberries. It makes everything look fresher and more appetising.

- Have more than one type of tea to offer, such as Earl Grey, English Breakfast and perhaps Green Tea, to cater to everyone's preferences.

- Consider a non-carbohydrate course such as little teacups of colourful jellies to refresh the palate and enjoy between the savoury and sweet treats.

- Scones are at their best when served plump and warm. Microwaving them isn't as good as warming them in the oven for a short while before offering.

- Be generous with the jam and clotted cream. Allow enough for people to slather it on.

Additional reporting SWNS.