I know it's a cliche but the British love a good cup of tea. I once heard someone describe having cake and a cup of tea being like a picnic indoors. So today we talk about a cream tea, and some British culture around drinking tea while we practice listening to English being spoken and practice listening to English speaking in Britain.
Tea is popular in most parts of the world, in Asia with green tea, and Russia and Europe with black teas, every part of the world seems to have a relationship with tea.
Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
⭐ Henry James
Tea is just a part of being British so knowing a little about tea is probably useful, even if you just use the knowledge to for an ESL speaking topic or just so you can understand why your British friends are always “putting the kettle on”.
Scones Scone Staycation Wetsuit
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Hi and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. Speak better English with our Listen & Learn method. You get to listen to interesting podcasts and course material – and meanwhile, your brain is busy learning English in the natural way that you learned your own language. So if you want to learn English speaking and improve your spoken English, this listening and understanding stage is necessary first.
I hope you’re well and whatever the situation in your country at the moment, it’s not too bad for you. Some of the restrictions are now lifting and people are able to go out again. For some people, it’s the first time in a number of weeks. Let’s hope we can all enjoy some of the summer.
So how about this week we talk about something which is quintessentially English? A bit of English culture – and a bit of pronunciation? The English we speak and a bit of British culture thrown in?
If you’ve ever come to the UK, then you’re likely to have visited London – most people make that their destination. And with good reason – many of the famous landmarks and iconic places are in London. And there’s just so much to see and to do there. But have you ever visited the south west of the UK? The counties like Devon and Cornwall? These counties are very popular holiday destinations for people from the UK – when we’re doing a ‘staycation’. And I’m sure now we’ll be doing more of those, rather than travelling on planes.
So when we’re doing a ‘staycation’, Devon and Cornwall are very popular destinations. One thing we have a lot of in the UK, is coastline and beaches. They’re not often used like the beaches in say southern Europe, in Andalucia for example. It’s not usually as warm as that here – but visitors are surprised sometimes by just how beautiful our beaches are and our coastal paths. So we find plenty of other things to do at the beach – with your clothes on perhaps!
So ‘the south west’, Devon and Cornwall are very popular holiday destinations for a number of reasons. For one, the weather is the warmest in the south in the UK. We have the Gulf Stream, which carries warm air all the way from the Gulf of Mexico and which makes it much warmer in the UK than it should be, given where we are in terms of ….fairly north. And especially the south west is affected by the Gulf Stream. So Devon and Cornwall are warmer – but it is the UK, so even in the summer you’re not guaranteed wall-to-wall sunshine (‘wall-to-wall’ means constant, all the time). But the temperature on average is warmer – and it’s mild in the winter so you do see palm trees growing in parts of the south west of the UK. If you want warm and dry, then actually the counties in the south east, like Kent and Essex have the least rainfall. But Devon and Cornwall are very charming and are situated on a peninsula effectively – so they have each of them a lot of coast line and it’s very beautiful.
Cornwall is the county right at the tip, right at the end. And it has a place called ‘Lands End’ – which is exactly the same name as Finisterre in Brittany, in France – it means the same. ‘Lands End’ means the furthest point there is from the far north of Scotland. So Cornwall has coastline all around it. And Devon, which is slightly further north, has a north western coastline and a southern coastline. And the character of these two coastlines is very different. If you want some warmth and sunshine, then you’re more likely to find that on the southern coast of Devon in places like Salcombe and Newton Ferrers or we like Noss Mayo. The north western coastline is of course on the Atlantic side – so it’s windier and the waves on the sea are bigger. This means that places like Ilfracombe, Woolacombe and Westward Ho! are where surfers like to go. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate and admire that place name there – Westward Ho! That 2nd word is spelt H-O, with an exclamation on the end. It’s the only place name in English that has an exclamation mark! It comes from more innocent times, when ‘ho’ didn’t mean what it might mean now!
So if you visit the south west of the UK, the sort of holiday that you would expect, would be a bit like the kind of holiday, you might take in Brittany in Northern France – Cornwall and Devon have a similar feel to Brittany. You are more likely to be wearing a wetsuit on the beach than a bikini – a wetsuit is what surfers wear. And you might spend time walking, horse riding and other outdoor activities. I was going to say you wouldn’t be visiting art galleries and museums there, like you would on holiday in London. But actually St Ives has a Tate Gallery, so you might! And these places are also known for their pubs – where you can get a beer and nice food – and if it’s winter, a nice log fire. And many of these pubs are very old – they’ve been operating as business for centuries. Let’s hope most of the pubs survive our current situation.
But one of the things you’ll see advertised everywhere in Devon and Cornwall in the summer, are ‘Cream Teas’. And if you opt for a ‘cream tea’, then it’s more likely to be served in a pub garden, or on a balcony or best of all and most authentic, in a garden that’s like a field, with tables and chairs put out. Pubs and Farmhouses, even private householders in the country offer ‘cream teas’.
So what do you get with ‘a cream tea’? Well, there are variants, but usually it’s a pot of tea – possibly Earl Grey, Assam or Darjeeling, sugar, milk – and some scones or scones with cream and jam.
A photograph of a cranberry scone with some nice jam used to help explain the British obsession with tea and the vocabulary around this topic.
Scones or scones, we’ll talk about in a minute. But the cream is usually Devon ‘clotted’ cream, that’s C-L-O-T-T-E-D for ‘clotted’ – which just means it’s really, really thick. And the jam will generally be either raspberry or strawberry – and if you’re really lucky, it’ll be home made from strawberries and raspberries growing in the garden that you’re sitting in to eat it.
And scones or scones? Well, they’re a sort of a cake, I guess. Though not quite – they’re somewhere between a cake and a biscuit – not quite like either. They’re made with white flour, butter, milk and a tiny bit of sugar, with eggs. But you don’t beat it – so there’s no air inside, so it’s not a cake texture. And sometimes they have dried fruit in them – that’s currants or raisins.
And scones or scones – two different pronunciations? Well, people like me who come from the north of the UK will say ‘scone’, but down beyond the midlands, in the south of the UK, people say ‘scone’. We sometimes argue about it – but it’s one of those pronunciations which is your choice. Decide which pronunciation you like the sound of and go with that.
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To eat your scone, slice it in half horizontally, butter it and put lots on... lots of jam and cream on there. There’s also an argument too sometimes about whether you put the jam on or the cream on first. I’m not sure it matters to me – I don’t even have a position on that one!
So there we have it. Some information about places to visit in the UK. Some British culture and food – and a little bit of pronunciation. I think because I’ve now been at home for seven weeks, not able to go anywhere, I’m dreaming of a time when we can all go on holiday again! Nice thought, at least!
If you enjoyed this podcast and you’d like to hear more about British culture and food – then why not buy our Course One, Activate your Listening – and improve your English language skills while learning a bit about British food. Learn about what we eat in the UK – and the vocabulary for it. You’ll also learn about the UK and Britain and about Education in this course – all good conversation topics. And of course, all the while, you’re improving your general vocabulary in English. Speaking English will be so much easier once you’ve learned this way.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.