Devonshire Clotted Cream

Published 30 November 2016   



A few years ago, when I was feeling a tad nostalgic for my homeland, a friend surprised me with a ‘Devonshire Cream Tea’ at a random roadside cafe. Hands up if you’ve ever had one: crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth scones – still warm from the oven, old-fashioned strawberry jam just like Grandma used to make with whole strawberries, and dollops of thick, silky, golden-yellow Devonshire clotted cream, along with vintage china and a pot of perfectly brewed tea. It’s a heavenly combination, but unfortunately my friend and I were 11,000 miles away from the English county of Devon; the substitute dry and rubbery scones, artificially-coloured supermarket jam presented in single-serving plastic packs, and sweetened aerosol cream just didn’t cut it.


While freshly-baked scones and homemade jam would have improved my friend’s well-meant ‘treat’, it should be noted that no Devonshire cream tea is authentic without clotted cream. Thick and indulgent with a slight caramel richness, a subtle nutty flavour, a distinctive crust on the surface, and a dense texture that ensures it stays on the spoon or knife like a chunk of butter, clotted cream – I’m proud to say – originates from my Devon hometown of Tavistock. Way back in the 11th century, the first dollops were dished out by the resident Benedictine monks as a gift to the townsfolk in gratitude for their help with the repair of Tavistock Abbey.

Clotted cream is made by gently ‘scalding’ the creamiest unpasteurised cow’s milk, using steam or a water bath, and leaving it to cool in a shallow pan for 12-24 hours. This process causes the fat content to rise to the surface and form ‘clots’ or ‘clouts’, while developing a firm, deeper-yellow crust. It is then carefully skimmed from the top of the pan, using a tool known as a ‘reamer’. This specialised art requires Jersey cows as these are the girls that produce the richest creamiest milk. The reason why clotted cream originated in Devon is simple: the region’s particular combination of sunshine and rainfall creates the lush green grass of the dairy pastures.


Clotted cream manufacturing in Devon and Cornwall is mainly a cottage industry that sees local farmers and dairies getting heavily involved in the production process. Since 1998, it has been honoured with the same Protected Designation of Origin status as Stilton cheese and Jersey Royal Potatoes, effectively giving its name EU-wide protection from potential imitators. It must have a minimum 55 percent butterfat content to be called Devonshire or Cornish clotted cream, although it more commonly boasts the guiltily pleasurable figure of 64 percent fat.

Finally, if you’re wondering why clotted cream hasn’t exploded with worldwide popularity, it’s because the product has an extremely short shelf life, which makes it difficult to export. All the more reason to visit Devon!

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