Dreaming of Devon

Rolling hills, sandy beaches, fossil cliffs, medieval towns, and moorland—the English county of Devon has it all.

Deriving its name from the ancient Dumnonii tribe of Brittonic Celts, Devon is thought to mean “deep valley dwellers”.

With so much to experience and enjoy, we’re convinced you’ll be dreaming of dwelling in Devon for your next vacation.

Landscape and Scenery

Devon is the only English county with two separate coastlines—the ruggedly beautiful rural north, with its dramatic cliffs rising 1000 ft from the sea, and the gentler rolling hills of the south, dotted with pretty towns and seaside resorts.

Lashed by the Atlantic ocean, North Devon’s coastal swells draw surfers from far and wide.

North Devon Coast at Watermouth Cove. Credit Andrew Bone, flickr
North Devon Coast at Watermouth Cove. Credit Andrew Bone, flickr

Bathed in the semi-tropical warmth carried on the Gulf Stream, South Devon experiences a milder climate, with seaside family resort towns and pretty fishing villages.

Kingswear on the tidal River Dart within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Kingswear on the tidal River Dart within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
South Devon countryside near Sidmouth. Credit Bob Radlinski
South Devon countryside near Sidmouth. Credit Bob Radlinski
The River Tavy at Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The River Tavy at Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Branscombe, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Branscombe, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Teign Gorge, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Teign Gorge, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Bridge over the River Dart, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Bridge over the River Dart, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson

Seaside Towns and Beaches

The opening of Britain’s railways during the Victorian Era enabled ordinary folk to travel to seaside resorts all across Britain.

Comparing well with the French Riviera, Victorians began calling the outstanding 22-mile stretch of coastline centered on Torbay the “English Riviera”, and the name stuck.

Torquay in 1890
Torquay in 1890

With its picturesque harbours, bustling towns, and family-friendly beaches, the English Riviera is perfect for either a day trip or a longer stay.

Torquay Marina. Credit Barry Lewis
Torquay Marina. Credit Barry Lewis
Torquay Marina. Credit Barry Lewis
Torquay Marina. Credit Barry Lewis
Peak Hill Road & Scenery. From the road looking back down towards Sidmouth and the Jurrasic Coast. Credit Lewis Clarke
Peak Hill Road & Scenery. From the road looking back down towards Sidmouth and the Jurrasic Coast. Credit Lewis Clarke

Captivated by the beauty of the Georgian town of Sidmouth, the Poet Laureate John Betjeman called it “a town caught in a timeless charm”.

Sidmouth's Georgian-era seafront. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Sidmouth’s Georgian-era seafront. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Torcross & Slapton Sands, South Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Torcross & Slapton Sands, South Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Budleigh Salterton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Budleigh Salterton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Brixham Harbour from King Street. Credit David Dixon
Brixham Harbour from King Street. Credit David Dixon
The harbour at Lynmouth, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The harbour at Lynmouth, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Blackpool Sands, South Devon. Credit Matthew Hartley, flickr
Blackpool Sands, South Devon. Credit Matthew Hartley, flickr

Family fun and happy childhood memories are what a holiday in Devon is all about.

Good old-fashioned family fun in Devon. Credit Steve Johnson, flickr
Good old-fashioned family fun in Devon. Credit Steve Johnson, flickr

National Parks

Encompassing two National Parks, two World Heritage Sites, and five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), over half of Devon’s land is protected by law.

Sunset at Haytor, Dartmoor. Credit Simon Vogt, flickr
Sunset at Haytor, Dartmoor. Credit Simon Vogt, flickr

Known for its rounded boulder-like outcrops of granite called tors, over 160 hills include the word “tor” in their name.

Combestone Tor in the centre of Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Combestone Tor in the centre of Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Clapper Bridge on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Clapper Bridge on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Hardy, and with excellent stamina and a kind temperament, Dartmoor ponies have lived in the south west of England for hundreds of years.

Used as a working animal by local quarries and tin mines, their numbers have fallen from around 25,000 in the 1930s to a few thousand today.

Dartmoor ponies, Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Dartmoor ponies, Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Inspiring Britain’s writers for centuries, Devon has featured in many famous works, including Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, and a host of Agatha Christie murder mysteries.

Stone enclosure on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Stone enclosure on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Norsworthy Bridge, Burrator, Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Norsworthy Bridge, Burrator, Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Exmoor landscape. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Exmoor landscape. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Wild and windswept, Dartmoor soaks up the warmth of the setting sun.

Early evening on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Early evening on Dartmoor. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Cathedrals, Abbeys, and Churches

Completed in around 1400 and dedicated to Saint Peter, Exeter Cathedral’s Decorated Gothic style replaced a much earlier Norman design, of which two massive towers remain.

Constructed entirely of local stone, notable features include the multi-ribbed ceiling, the Great East Window containing 14th-century stained glass, and Britain’s earliest complete set of fifty misericords (wooden carvings on seats designed to fold up and act as support during standing prayer).

Exeter Cathedral. Credit Joe Dunckley, flickr
Exeter Cathedral. Credit Joe Dunckley, flickr

Exeter Cathedral has the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in the world, at about 315 ft.

Exeter Cathedral Nave. Credit David Iliff
Exeter Cathedral Nave. Credit David Iliff

Buckfast Abbey is an active Benedictine monastery that was refounded in 1882 after the previous 12th-century abbey was destroyed during King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.

Buckfast Abbey, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
fast Abbey, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Interior of Buckfast Abbey, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Interior of Buckfast Abbey, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dedicated to the Anglo-Saxon princess Werburgh, the parish church at Wembury, in the hills above the beach, has commanding views across the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Church of St Werburgh at Wembury, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Church of St Werburgh at Wembury, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson

There are literally dozens of historically significant village churches to explore, many dating from Norman Britain.

St Andrew’s Church, Broadhembury. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
St Andrew’s Church, Broadhembury. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Church of St Mary, Ottery St Mary, Devon. Credit Spencer Means, flickr
The Church of St Mary, Ottery St Mary, Devon. Credit Spencer Means, flickr

Named after a Roman centurion who converted to Christianity, the parish church at Tavistock is a “wool church”—financed primarily by rich wool merchants and farmers during the Middle Ages, hoping their largesse would ensure a place in heaven.

St Eustachius' Church, Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
St Eustachius’ Church, Tavistock, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Castles and Country Houses

Powderham Castle is a fortified manor house and home to the Courtenay family, Earls of Devon.

The appellation “castle” was added in the 17th century and although never a true castle with a keep and moat, it had a protective curtain wall and yard on the east side.

Powderham Castle, Devon, east front
Powderham Castle, Devon, east front

Featuring a mixture of medieval towers and fine 18th-century decoration, Powderham Castle is named from the ancient Dutch word “polder”, and means “the hamlet of the reclaimed marsh-land”.

Powderham Castle and Rose Garden, Devon. Credit Erin Brierley
Powderham Castle and Rose Garden, Devon. Credit Erin Brierley

The Staircase Hall has an impressive mahogany staircase decorated with carved heraldic beasts and intricate plasterwork.

Inside Powderham Castle. Credit Manfred Heyde
Inside Powderham Castle. Credit Manfred Heyde

Used as the filming location for the highly-rated 1983 version of Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Knightshayes Court is pure Victorian Gothic, complete with gargoyles, corbels, and a medieval-inspired great hall.

Renowned architectural scholar Nikolaus Pevsner called it “an eloquent expression of High Victorian ideals in a country house”.

Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon. Credit Becks, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon. Credit Becks, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court Bedroom, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Knightshayes Court Bedroom, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

Designed by Scottish neoclassical architect Robert Adam, the beautiful Georgian mansion of Saltram House was described by architectural scholar Pevsner as “the most impressive country house in Devon”.

Saltram House, Plympton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Saltram House, Plympton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Considered one of Adam’s finest interiors, the sumptuous drawing room features Rococo plasterwork, exceptional paintings, luxurious Axminster carpets, and the finest damask upholstered Thomas Chippendale furniture.

Drawing Room at Saltram House, Plympton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Drawing Room at Saltram House, Plympton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Devonshire Cream Tea

Derived from Devon county, the term “Devonshire Cream Tea” refers to a light meal taken in the afternoon at around 4 pm, consisting of a pot of tea with scones, clotted cream, and jam.

Anglo-Saxon texts from around the 8th century refer to “Defenascir”, meaning “Devonshire” after it changed from the Latin name “Dumnonia” following the fall of Roman rule in Britain.

A "chocolate box" Devonshire Cream Tea experience at Selworthy in Devon. Credit Heather Cowper, Flickr
A “chocolate box” Devonshire Cream Tea experience at Selworthy in Devon. Credit Heather Cowper, Flickr

Devon and Cornwall have different ideas over how to eat scones with cream tea.

Devonians prefer to add cream first followed by jam, whereas the Cornish way is to add the jam first.

Either way, Devonshire Cream Tea remains one of the most popular snacks ordered at countless tea shops and cafes in the region and across Britain.

Devon style scones with clotted cream and jam. Credit Linnie, flickr
Devon style scones with clotted cream and jam. Credit Linnie, flickr

Dairy farming has been important to Devon for centuries, with the 11th-century monks at Tavistock Abbey known to have offered bread with cream and jam to local workers who helped rebuild the Abbey after it was attacked by Vikings in 997 AD.

Related post: 8 Surprising Facts About British Tea Traditions

The best cream comes from happy cows, and Devon’s cows are among the happiest—churning out cream by the churnful!

Life on George Casely's Farm, Devon, England, 1942
Life on George Casely’s Farm, Devon, England, 1942

Watersmeet House is a beautiful former fishing lodge turned into a tea room and shop by the National Trust.

Surrounded by pristine countryside, it makes a perfect place to stop for afternoon tea for the whole family.

Watersmeet House near Lynmouth, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Watersmeet House near Lynmouth, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr

The 18th-century 16-sided “A La Ronde” is a licensed award-winning tea-room offering delicious homemade cakes, afternoon tea, and light meals.

Sourced from local farms, specialties include the smoked chicken, the South Devon sweet chilli jam and, of course, the Devonshire clotted cream.

Eat inside the tea-room or out on the lawn taking in the estuary views with picnic rugs provided.

A La Ronde near Lympstone, Exmouth, seen from the south-west. Credit Markfromexeter
A La Ronde near Lympstone, Exmouth, seen from the south west. Credit Markfromexeter
Olde Corner Shoppe teas and lunches in Coylton, Devon. Credit Sludge G, flickr
Olde Corner Shoppe teas and lunches in Coylton, Devon. Credit Sludge G, flickr

Coastal Walks

Stretching for 630 miles along the coasts of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, and Dorset, the South West Coast Path is England’s longest waymarked footpath and National Trail.

Originating as a path for coastguards to walk between lighthouses while patrolling for smugglers, the South West Coast Path covers both the north and south coasts of Devon.

The South West Coast Path above Pudcombe Cove. Credit Philip Halling
The South West Coast Path above Pudcombe Cove. Credit Philip Halling
The South West Coast Path above Blackpool Sands. Credit Philip Halling
The South West Coast Path above Blackpool Sands. Credit Philip Halling
Valley of the Rocks, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Valley of the Rocks, Devon. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The Great Mewstone at Wembury Point, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The Great Mewstone at Wembury Point, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Pretty Villages and Towns

Devon is dotted with dozens of pretty coastal and inland villages and towns.

Brightly-coloured fishing villages and quaint thatched cottages typify the beautiful settings—perfect for strolling among antique and gift shops, bookstores, and galleries.

The village of Beer, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The village of Beer, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Step back in time in the beautiful seaside village of Clovelly on Devon’s north coast.

Flanked by whitewashed houses—most of which are architecturally listed and protected as historically important—Clovelly’s steep cobbled main street descends 400 ft to the harbour below.

Clovelly Main Street. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
Clovelly Main Street. Credit Bob Radlinski, flickr
The village of Axmouth, East Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The village of Axmouth, East Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Branscombe Village, Devon. Credit Gary Turner, flickr
Branscombe Village, Devon. Credit Gary Turner, flickr
Pretty Devon cottages at Branscombe. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Pretty Devon cottages at Branscombe. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

Dating back to 907 AD, Totnes was a thriving market town with many wealthy merchant’s  houses from the 16th and 17th centuries lining the “Fore Street”—the name given to the main thoroughfare in many towns of south west England.

Fore Street, Totnes, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson
Fore Street, Totnes, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson

Operating over part of a converted railway branch line, the Tramway in the little seaside town of Seaton runs 13 half-scale replicas of classic British trams on a 3-mile route through East Devon’s beautiful Axe Valley.

The vintage tramway at Seaton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
The vintage tramway at Seaton, Devon. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Dartmouth Regatta. Credit Adam Court, flickr
Dartmouth Regatta. Credit Adam Court, flickr

With so much to offer, Devon is sure to have you dreaming of your next visit.

Sunset over Plymouth Sound. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr
Sunset over Plymouth Sound. Credit Baz Richardson, flickr

10 Fascinating Facts about the History of Tea in Britain

Tea’s rise in popularity in Britain coincided with a flowering of intellectual and creative thought that we call the Enlightenment.

By the middle of the 18th century, tea had replaced ale & gin as the people’s favorite beverage.

Is tea a magical elixir?

You decide as we look at 10 fascinating facts about the history of tea in Britain.

1. Tea was first offered in London coffeehouses in 1657

Blue plaque in Change Alley. Credit Basher Eyre
Blue plaque in Change Alley. Credit Basher Eyre

Chinese green tea was first introduced into the London coffeehouse scene in around 1657.

It was down these narrow alleys that the mercantile class of London would meet to discuss business in coffeehouses.

Opposite the Royal Exchange on Cornhill, there is an entrance to a network of alleyways called Change Alley (formerly known as Exchange Alley).

Nestled beside makers of fine wands, there was something else magical for sale: tea.

Ollivanders Wand Shop, Diagon Alley. Credit Rob Young
Ollivanders Wand Shop, Diagon Alley. Credit Rob Young

The owner of one establishment created a pamphlet and advertisement to explain the new beverage as an early form of health drink:

“That Excellent, and by all Physicians approved, China drink, called by the Chinese, Tcha, by other nations Tay alias Tee, …sold at the Sultaness-head, ye Cophee-house in Sweetings-Rents, by the Royal Exchange, London.”

How did the introduction of tea impact the city of London? It became the most powerful city in the world for 200 years.

Today, London vies with New York as the world’s most influential city.

2. Samuel Pepys wrote about drinking tea in 1660

“I did send for a cup of tee, (a China drink) of which I had never had drunk before.”

Samuel Pepys (1633 – 1703) was an English Member of Parliament and naval administrator who is famous for keeping a detailed diary for a decade as a young man.

Trivia: his work as Chief Secretary to the Admiralty would help position Britain’s Royal Navy as the world’s most powerful in years to come.

3. A Portuguese Princess made tea popular in Britain

Catherine of Braganza (1638 – 1705) was Queen Consort of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1662 to 1685, as the wife of King Charles II.

Although Catherine didn’t actually introduce tea into Britain, she was instrumental in making it fashionable. Her use of tea as a court beverage, rather than a medicinal drink, influenced its popularity in literary circles.

Trivia: Queens, a borough of New York City, is thought to be named after Catherine of Braganza since she was queen when Queens County was established in 1683.

4. These could be the earliest British directions for how to make tea

Portrait of Edward Herbert, 3rd Baron Herbert of Chirbury (1633–1678) by Gerard Soest

In 1672, Edward Herbert, 3rd Baron Herbert of Chirbury sent directions for tea making, and warming the delicate cups, to Shropshire;

“The directions for the tea are: a quart of spring water just boiled, to which put a spoonful of tea, and sweeten to the palate with candy sugar. As soon as the tea and sugar are in, the steam must be kept in as much as may be, and let it lie half or quarter of an hour in the heat of the fire but not boil. The little cups must be held over the steam before the liquid be put in.”

5. Tea may have been instrumental to the English Enlightenment

A “eureka” moment for Sir Isaac Newton.

It was a summer afternoon in 1665 and Sir Isaac Newton was taking tea under the apple trees in the family gardens at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, England.

By chance, an apple fell from an overhanging branch, hitting him on the head and sparking the “a-ha” moment for his law of gravitation.

Whether precisely true or not, is it a coincidence that a flowering of intellectual thinking in Britain occurred at around the same time that tea was fast becoming the nation’s favorite drink?

By 1720, black tea had overtaken green tea in popularity and was generally taken with milk and sugar.

Could this magical potion be the brain stimulant of Newton, Locke, and Hobbes?

6. Did tea power the British Industrial Revolution?

Not only was tea powering the massive minds of some of history’s greatest thinkers, but some scholars suggest that tea played a key role in the British Industrial Revolution.

The stimulants in the tea, coupled with the extra energy from sugar and milk would act like today’s energy drinks and give workers a boost—helping them work longer hours.

Even today, “builder’s tea” is a favorite for anyone doing physically strenuous work as part of their job. A colloquial term for strong tea, builder’s tea is typically brewed in a mug, always has milk, and two (or more) teaspoons of sugar.

Furthermore, because water has to be boiled for tea, water-borne diseases like dysentery, cholera, and typhoid were killed.

7. Chelsea porcelain manufactory produced the first British teaware

Fashionable 17th-century tea drinkers used small porcelain tea bowls that were sometimes shipped with the tea itself.

Established in 1743, the Chelsea porcelain manufactory produced the  first successful porcelain equipages and were quickly imitated.

During the 1770s and 1780s, tea was sometimes drunk from saucers. Deeper than today’s, they were similar to the Chinese bowls of the 17th century. It is thought the practice came from Russia, where samovars kept tea very hot and strong. Pouring from cup into saucer was a quick way to cool the tea.

8. Victorian tea rooms helped women win the right to vote

During the Victorian era, tea rooms may have helped the women’s suffrage movement.

Tea rooms were popular and fashionable social gathering places, especially for women.

British historian Sir Roger Fulford argued that tea rooms provided neutral public spaces to help women strategize political campaigns.

9. Thomas Twining opened the first known tea shop in London

Thomas Twining opened the first known tea shop in 1706.

Twinings holds the world’s oldest continually-used company logo and has occupied the same premises at 216 Strand, London, since inception.

A division of Associated British Foods since 1964, Stephen Twining now represents the company’s tenth generation.

Celebrating its 300th anniversary in 2006, Twinings launched a special tea and associated tea caddies.

Appointed by HM The Queen, Twining’s is a Royal Warrant holder.

10. Take a tea break—it’s the law!

In a working shift of six hours, British workers have the right in law to a minimum of a 20-minute break.

Described in government guidelines as “a tea or lunch break”, it is sometimes called “elevenses”, because 11 am is a good time to take a break, leaving two hours before the traditional lunchtime of 1 pm.

In Britain, where there is tea, there are usually biscuits too—it’s really hard to have one without the other.

Dunking biscuits in a “cuppa” (cup of tea) is a custom that Brits have exported around the globe.

McVitie’s biscuits are the most popular biscuits in the UK to “dunk” in tea, with McVitie’s chocolate digestives, Rich tea and Hobnobs ranked the nation’s top three favorites.

References
Wikipedia.org
Victoria & Albert Museum
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Telegraph

8 Surprising Facts About British Tea Traditions

There’s hardly a more British custom than a nice cup of tea. This magical elixir helps Brits get through the day and seems to make problems disappear … at least temporarily! It is said that tea was our secret weapon during the dark days of World War II.

80% of Britons drink tea and consume 165 million cups daily, or 60.2 billion cups a year!

Tea drinking in Britain has spawned several lasting traditions over the centuries.

Here are 7 facts that you might not know about British tea traditions:

1. 10th-century monks invented Cream Tea

Ruin of the abbey cloister at Tavistock, Devon, England
Ruin of the abbey cloister at Tavistock, Devon, England

Not much remains today, but these ruins were once a Benedictine Abbey at Tavistock in Devon.

There is evidence in manuscripts that Monks served bread with clotted cream and strawberry preserves to local workers who helped rebuild the Abbey after it was damaged in a Viking raid in 997AD.

It was an instant hit among the locals, and the monks started serving it to passing travelers.

The Devonshire cream tea was born.

Today, Devonshire cream tea typically comprises a pot of tea, along with scones, strawberry preserves, clotted cream, and sometimes curds and butter.

Credit Shane Global
Credit Shane Global

2. A hungry Duchess originated the tradition of Afternoon Tea

It was around four o’clock in the afternoon at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, England, during the early 1840s. Anna Russell, seventh Duchess of Bedford noticed she had a “sinking feeling” at this time of day.

Dinner would not be served until eight o’clock, so she ordered tea with bread and butter to help stave off her hunger.

Woburn Abbey. Credit Jason Ballard, Ljuba brank.
Woburn Abbey. Credit Jason Ballard, Ljuba brank.

When the Duchess asked friends to join her, the idea soon spread, becoming the popular social occasion of Afternoon Tea that we know and love today.

3. Low Tea is “posher” than High Tea

Isn’t tea just a drink?

Tea” is used to denote both a beverage and different types of meal.

Two terms sometimes used in the Victorian Era were “low tea” and “high tea“.

Low tea was served on low lounge chairs and sofas with low tables (similar to today’s coffee tables), and high tea was served on high chairs around a table.

"Low Tea" (Afternoon Tea)
“Low Tea” (Afternoon Tea)

But here’s the surprising part: “low tea” was enjoyed by the aristocracy and “high tea” by the working class.

Confusion has arisen because “high tea” simply sounds classier than “low tea“.

Which leads us to our next surprising fact …

4. High Tea is not the same as Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is derived from the social tradition started by the Duchess of Bedford. Taken at around 4 – 6 pm, it typically comprises Devonshire cream tea and an assortment of delicate crustless sandwiches, sweets, and cakes.

In short, this is the “posh” tea, served today in country tea rooms or city hotels.

Left: Afternoon Tea, Fairmont Château, Lake Lousie. Credit Elsie Hui. Top right: Afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel. credit Su-Lin. Bottom right: Victoria Sponge slice. Credit Carwyn Lloyd Jones.
Left: Afternoon Tea, Fairmont Château, Lake Lousie. Credit Elsie Hui. Top right: Afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel. credit Su-Lin. Bottom right: Victoria Sponge slice. Credit Carwyn Lloyd Jones.

High Tea is traditionally an end of day meal for the working class, comprising things like cold meats, pies, salad, pickles, bread and butter, cakes, and a pot of tea.

Usually shortened to just “tea”, the term is still used in the Midlands and the North of England.

If you visit the north of England today, you may hear someone say, “I’ve got to get home and make the tea for the kids”, or the northern tendency to personalize with “our/us”, as in “what’s for us tea?”

"What's for us tea?" Credit Paul Townsend
“What’s for us tea?”

5. Cream Tea in Devon and Cornwall are different

Anyone trying Cream Tea for the first time may wonder “do I add the cream first or the preserves?”

Thanks to the rivalry between Devon and Cornwall, it doesn’t matter. Phew, that’s a relief!

A subtle distinction between the way Cream Tea is eaten in the counties of Devon and Cornwall is the order of applying the silky-smooth clotted cream and the delicious strawberry preserves.

Left: the Cornish scone method. Right: the Devon (or Devonshire) method.
Left: the Cornish scone method. Right: the Devon (or Devonshire) method.

But in Devon, the clotted cream is applied first, with the strawberry preserves second.

6. How you pronounce “scone” says a lot about where you’re from

644
How do you pronounce “scone”?
Research conducted by YouGov

According to global market research and data analytics company YouGov, the pronunciation of the word is influenced by two main factors: region and social grade. Individuals in the North (60%) and Scotland (80%) predominantly pronounce scone like “gone”, whereas those in the Midlands (56%) and London (50%) are more inclined to opt for pronouncing scone like “bone”.

Social class also influences the pronunciation. Those in the working class (semi-skilled/unskilled/unemployed) tend to be evenly split on how they pronounce “scone”, whereas those in the middle class (professional/skilled) tend to favour pronouncing scone like “gone” by a significant margin.

7. For a “proper cuppa”, add milk last

Milk Last. Credit Matt Baume

If you really want to drink tea like they do on Downton Abbey, you will add your milk last.

Inferior china cups were inclined to crack when hot tea was poured into them, but the finest china was much stronger and didn’t crack.

So putting the milk in last became a way for the upper class to show they had the best china.

Milk in last also lets you judge the strength more easily—too much milk can ruin the perfect cup of tea.

8. “Pinkies Up” is out

According to etiquette expert William Hanson, an outstretched little finger has apparently become one of Afternoon Tea’s most common faux pas and is considered rude in most social settings. One misconception is that it somehow helps balance the cup.

Here’s a video from William giving us some useful etiquette tips on how to enjoy Afternoon Tea the “proper” way.

Sources and Additional Reading
Wikipedia.org
Were cream teas “invented” in Tavistock?
Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History by Andrea Broomfield