By Jane Malyon
The English Cream Tea Company
Do you serve English Cream Tea?
I spend much of my life discussing the niceties of English Cream Tea with the public or the press.
Can you guess the question I get asked most often? Yes, it’s about the pronunciation of the word Scone (of course!)…..and the next most asked question? Cream or Jam first. Go on, have one more guess for the 3rd most popular question: well that one is all about milk or tea first!!
Since setting up The English Cream Tea Company in 2011 and gaining the Guinness World Record for the largest English Cream Tea ever that year, I must have discussed these aspects over 3000 times.
The BBC have interviewed me over and over as have TV crews from abroad, The Times, The Guardian, Woman and Home and lots more….but it was only the TV crew from Russia who surprised me. Their first question (in a thick Russian accent) was: “Jane…what is builder’s tea?”. Caught completely on the hop I said something about it being tea so strong you could stand your spoon up in it…and the interviewer said back with surprise: “You can stand your spoon up in your tea?”.
Haha. That taught me to keep it literal and not to use metaphors in such interviews!
Well I help to run @CreamTeaHour on Twitter (Thursdays at 8pm), have a mailing list of 20,000 and also have hundreds of thousands of viewers to our etiquette videos. So I’ve taken the opportunity to run a survey on what qualities people want to see in a nice tea room. The order of popularity of pleas and requests to those running tea rooms, is slightly surprising:
8th favourite answer was to do with the staff being presented nicely, preferably with old fashioned aprons!
7th highest response was about choices of gluten free, vegetarian options and so on.
6th highest answer was to have a nice range of teas from which to choose.
5th most popular viewpoint was all about the viewpoint! A nice view when possible with countryside or seaside preferred.
4th top answer emphasised about fresh fresh fresh. No dry sandwiches, no dry cakes and a freshly made selection please!
3rd highest was to do with the china - pretty cups and saucers, would you believe. People referred to loving the tinkling noise of silver spoons on the bone china!
2nd most popular answer was cleanliness. Lots of people commented on how important this was to them, including the table linen. One person also said that if she picked up the menu and it was icky-sticky to begin with, it would put her off the whole treat!
And the top number one answer? That was to receive a nice warm welcome and have lovely friendly, smiling service!
No one mentioned the words ‘must be cheap’ by the way - so that’s quite interesting in itself!
In the Autumn, my book, ‘Scone or Scon’ will be published, containing the history of tea and afternoon tea in Great Britain and top recipes too - but also with a full etiquette quiz to see if we’re all Palace ready! However, regardless of whether we hold our little pinky finger out when drinking tea or not (and by the way, the answer is ‘not’), the importance is to treasure our wonderful tea time traditions.
We supply farm shops and retailers with gift tins and jam sets pertaining to afternoon tea (eg Home Bake Scone Kits) and we must all keep the tradition going. Teatime treats are loved by Brits and visitors from abroad alike and Nelson Mandela even said that afternoon tea was Britain’s greatest export.
For those of you offering these treats in your establishment, keep up the good work. I heartily approve and I believe Nelson would too! :D
By Jo O'Boyle