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How Do the British Really Eat Scones?

Freshly baked scones
Freshly baked scones | © Sandid / Pixabay
Jam or cream first? Either way, you won’t want to get on the wrong side of an age-old rivalry.

Scones are a baked sweet treat and can be found on afternoon tea stands in most quintessentially British hotels and cafés – but what goes first on a scone, and how do the British really eat them?

What goes on a scone?

Scones are most commonly made either plain or with raisins and sultanas. Although they can be enjoyed with any topping, the Brits traditionally enjoy scones as part of a cream, or afternoon, tea.

Generally, scones are topped with clotted cream and jam – usually strawberry.

Freshly baked fruit scones © Alena Kravchenko / Alamy Stock Photo

Regional differences

You could be forgiven for not thinking twice about this tasty treat, but actually, the humble scone is the cause of one of the most heated debates in the British Isles. And at the heart of this conflict is what goes on first – the cream or the jam?

Now, this might sound silly to some, but which topping is applied first depends on which of two neighbouring counties you are from: Devon or Cornwall. Devonians, or those from Devon, enjoy their scones with cream on the bottom and jam on the top, while the Cornish enjoy their scones with jam first and then cream.

And this isn’t the only heated debate surrounding the dessert. Across the country there is controversy around how the word ‘scone’ is pronounced. And while there isn’t a clear correlation between the pronunciation and where the speaker is from, generally, someone from the south of England is more likely to say ‘scone’ to rhyme with ‘phone’, while someone from the Midlands or the north of England is more likely to pronounce ‘scone’ to rhyme with ‘gone’.

CRCFD0 Fresh homemade fruit scones with jam and cream. © ScotStock / Alamy Stock Photo

Scone-eating etiquette

There is a common misconception that a scone must be cut in half with a knife, but the classic way to eat a scone is to tear off a chunk at a time and then top with cream and jam; whether the cream or jam goes on first is up to you.

Some people do enjoy scones by slicing them in half and creating what’s colloquially referred to as a ‘scone sandwich’, but this is frowned upon. If you do this at afternoon tea at The Ritz, you might get some funny looks.

How to enjoy a scone

The best way to enjoy a scone is as part of an afternoon tea or cream tea. A popular tradition in the UK, afternoon tea features finger sandwiches and small, bite-size desserts that are washed down with either breakfast tea or herbal tea.

A cream tea is a much simpler option, as it’s just scones and a pot of tea. Either way, these scones are a delicious and much-loved British treat; just check who’s watching before you add your toppings.

Traditional afternoon tea © Nathaniel Noir / Alamy Stock Photo