One of Cornwall’s proudest exports is the cream tea. Showcasing the finest of local ingredients including clotted cream from Cornish cows, home-made berry jams and hand-baked scones, cream teas are an essential part of Cornwall’s heritage.
They also embody centuries of regional history, with countless family recipes having been passed down the generations with accompanying stories of culinary cultures past and present. As such, hundreds of visitors from around the world flock to the county every year, one of their main objectives being to try a real Cornish cream tea.
However, with so many incredible cafes to choose from, how are visitors to find the best of Cornwall’s high calibre catalogue? As this guide shows, whether you are staying in St. Ives or St Austell, you will be able to find an amazing cream tea experience that is just a stone’s throw from your luxury holiday cottage in Cornwall. To learn more about the best cream teas in Cornwall, take a look through our complete guide below to discover the best venues for Cornwall’s in Cornwall.
The Rectory Tea Rooms
Nestled right on the Cornish coast, The Rectory Tearooms in Morwenstow have been serving customers delicious snacks for over 60 years. Based on a working organic farm situated right on the cliffs of the rugged North Cornwall coastline, the tearooms are famous for many things, including their cream teas. They bake their scones from scratch every day, and serve them with local jams and Cornish creams. This proper home-made element is what makes customers come back time and time again to enjoy their delicious treats.
Jill explains why this established family business is so popular with locals and visitors alike: “Our ethos has always been that the cakes, soups and everything else are homemade, and use local ingredients such as cheeses and more. It adds a personal touch. This is also our home, and our customers definitely get that atmosphere when they visit. We are lucky to be situated right on the coastal footpath and next to the local church made famous by Reverend Stephen Hawker (who became a famous poet). And, as it is National Trust land, it’s never going to change.
Serving afternoon teas with 20 loose-leaf varieties and even a house blend made especially for the tearooms by a company in Truro, this is the whole package. The Rectory has also expanded to offer a full range of gluten-free options, including cakes, scones, and soups – all of which can be made dairy-free, too, in order to cater to every customer. The café was even featured on the Hairy Bikers ‘Home Comforts’ series this Christmas – and there is little praise higher than that!
Rosemergy Farmhouse can be found on the edge of the stunning North Cornish moors, between St. Ives and St. Just, and it provides the perfect way to enjoy a traditional Cornish cream tea. This family-run tea room and gardens is popular with dog walkers, hikers, climbers, cyclists and motorists alike. Their scrumptious cream teas are both affordable and tasty, offering a pot of tea, two scones, clotted cream and jam all for £5!
Jane and Ed from the Rosemery Farmhouse explain why their cream teas are unique: “Our scones and cakes are baked daily and served straight from the AGA oven, so they are always absolutely fresh. Because our menu is so simple, we're able to serve scones hot from the oven all afternoon, which is probably quite unusual, and has proved very popular. It's a method that justifies the Cornish tradition of applying jam before cream, because otherwise the clotted cream will melt!”
She continues, “Our position is perfect for customers wanting a sea view in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our granite farmhouse also has a traditional appeal as it is 250 years old, with mature trees and shrubs - quite unusual on this stretch of coast.
“Over the past 14 summers we have built up a considerable customer base of locals and holidaymakers, many of whom have become personal friends. We pride ourselves on providing a warm welcome for everyone, and our unusual opening hours extend to 6pm, which has proved very popular with hungry holidaymakers off the beach!”
The Lost Gardens of Heligan café
If you fancy enjoying a cream tea after a day of exploring one of the most unusual gardens in the U.K., The Lost Gardens of Heligan is the place to be. The home of the local Tremayne family for over 400 years, this is a genuine secret garden amidst a romantic estate. Lost among the overgrowth for decades as the world wars drew the gardens’ keepers to service, the gardens were discovered by chane in 1990 when a devastating hurricane unearthed a tiny room, buried under fallen masonry in the corner of one of the walled gardens, with a motto etched into the limestone wall reading “Don’t come here to sleep or slumber”. This thought, written by a former worker, spurred the current owners to tell the story of the garden and its creators in all their glory. And glorious this garden certainly is.
However, it is not just beautiful foliage and historical relics that you can see at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The attraction is also famed for its kitchen and bakery, which provides delicious lunches and snacks cooked from award-winning local ingredients, some of it grown on-site
James Stephens from the gardens tells us how their cream teas in particular gained such a reputation. He says, “Our cream teas are often described as some of the best in the country, which we take as a huge compliment owing to the fierce competition out there in the cream tea world!
“We think what makes ours so unique, is the fact they are best enjoyed as a well-deserved treat after exploring the 200 acres of estate we have here. Our scones are freshly baked in the on-site Heligan Bakery and the jam, cream, butter, tea and even the milk to go in the tea, are all Cornish and locally sourced. A seriously ‘proper’ Cornish cream tea!”
Whilst Cornwall is perhaps most well-known for its gorgeous beaches, it is also home to some enchanting woodlands waiting to be explored on your holiday. Sitting in the middle of one of the most beautiful of these is Woods Café, in Cardinham Woods, Bodmin. This family-run independent café serves home-made dishes using local ingredients off their perfectly curated menu of cakes, scones, and more. Of course, this also means fantastic cream teas.
David and Lara Spurrell from Woods Café tell us how they came to create their celebrated cream teas, saying, “Our idea of a perfect cream tea is pretty simple really - fresh, warm homemade scones, really good fruity jam and more clotted cream than is socially acceptable.”
Baked every morning and served with a pot of Cornish Tregothnan tea or locally roasted Origin coffee, these cream teas are everything you’d expect from a traditional local café. As you tuck in, either enjoy the sunshine in their outdoor seating area, or enjoy a lovely roaring fire in the winter.
The Cabin Café
For those in search of a slightly different take on the cream tea, The Cabin Café in Crackington Haven is the perfect pit-stop. Situated in this quaint Cornish cove, The Cabin serves home-made cakes, fresh salads and pasties to cater for a range of tastes. However, their cream teas are the stand-out item, because not only do they sell the traditional jam-and-cream fare, but they also offer fantastic savoury cream teas.
Delectable cheese scones are served with local cheddar, butter and their renowned green bean chutney – a great lunchtime alternative for those looking to cut down on sugar.
However, all of the cream teas served at The Cabin are special. Rachel from the café explains why, saying, “They're baked on site from scratch by the owner, Andrea, and have been for over 15 years! We've all tried to replicate her scones but failed every time! The recipe is a closely guarded secret (not even Andrea knows now! She's been making them for so long she never weighs or measures anything anymore!), but they're perfect every time!”
Supporting local farmers and using free-range ingredients wherever possible, this café makes for the perfect visit after a coastal walk or simply after a long day at the beach.
St. Mawgan Village Stores
Staying near Newquay? Take a day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the seaside town and head towards St Mawgan-in-Pydar, where you will find the brilliant little haven that is St Mawgan Village Stores. Established by Bonita Snook and her husband Neil after they moved to Cornwall from London in search of a more fulfilling lifestyle, the village stores and tea rooms have become very popular with locals and visitors alike – proving that great Cornish traditions can indeed be learned.
Sit under the beautiful grape vine in the garden and enjoy a wide range of teas, coffees, lunches and snacks, plus a wide range of home-made cakes and, of course, cream teas. This idyllic setting will make you feel truly pampered as you enjoy the lovely gardens and even better service.
Bonita comments, “What better way to spend a leisurely afternoon than enjoying a perfect cream tea in an award-winning tea garden?! Such simple pleasures. We work hard to provide a beautiful environment and fantastic food which is prepared with care and passion, and the feedback we receive is amazing. We’d be delighted to welcome you to our home and this idyllic, historic Cornish village.”
An honorary mention
If you’re familiar with the South West, you may already be aware of the friendly rivalry often held between the neighbouring counties of Cornwall and Devon. This is particularly evident when it comes to cream teas – a speciality that both regions stake a claim to. The essential difference which you’ll find friends from across the border debating is how cream teas ought to be consumed – namely, in which order you apply the jam and cream to the scone. In Cornwall, jam is spread first, with a dollop of cream placed on top. Devonians, on the other hand, will spread a thick layer of cream on the scone, before adding the jam.
However you choose to eat your cream tea, there is no denying that the product of both counties are simply delicious. So, in the name of inter-county diplomacy, as well as the dedication to hunting down mouth-watering cream teas, we had to giveThe Point at Hartland an honorary mention. Hartland is just slightly across the border into Devon, and is the perfect day trip for those holidaying in Cornwall who fancy enjoying a famous quay and notable buildings such as Hartland Abbey. It is also home to The Point, serving amazing cream teas.
Amy from the café says: “People say our scones are very fresh, light and buttery. We actually had a guy who reviews cream teas visit us. He likes to do the twist test - if the top comes off when you twist the scone. Yes - we passed the test. Our scones are made with love every morning at our little home kitchen. Hartland Point is a perfect spot for a cream tea by the sea, with a great view of Lundy Island.”
She adds, “Being on the border of Devon and Cornwall means you can add cream or jam first - nobody minds here!”