Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Lets find a Cafe (or tearoom)

Locations of reviewed cafes

For more information on the Cafes I have visited and the latest cafe cycle news go to http://www.cake-crusader.co.uk/

Cake Crusader Book

There is now a Cake Crusader book available where you can follow my journey from humble local trips to world record attempts and near death experiences. How did a simple method of keeping track of decent cycling café pit stops turn my life upside down? Track my adventures into Europe, up mountains and right across Great Britain as I become a 'rising star' on social media. Will I prove my critics wrong? Should cheese scones be served hot or cold? Do I really have nothing better to do with his time? A must read for lovers of cycling and cake or anyone wanting to make it big in the virtual world

Friday, 16 March 2018

Too much cake. (Sugar and Spice Cafe, Bacton)

Sugar and Spice,
Opening times Every day 9-4:00,
Highly Recommended 
Now fully recovered from the recent coast to coast ride in India I was keen to get back to the familiarity of a Norfolk based cafe cycle ride. I had waited all week for the right rainy and windy conditions and today they were perfect.

I was taking Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) as my cycling guest and had suggested we head for the coast. Andrew reported he had been poorly while I was away and only been able to return to his bike in the last few days. This was worrying news as in 3 months time we are riding across the Pyrenees (from the Atlantic to Mediterranean) and need to be in tip top condition as we have 11 climbs to complete in a week.

Having recently enjoyed the Bay of Bengal and Arabian sea I felt it would be nice to add the North sea to my list of recently seen seas so we headed out into a gale force wind to Mundesley before going down the coast road, in the rain, to Bacton as we enjoy some lovely views of murky grey sea and gas terminal.

Once at Bacton we found todays target cafe, Sugar and Spice, on the beach road. 
Outside Sugar and Spice cafe
As with the majority of seaside cafes you couldn't actually see the sea but inside was a nicely appointed large indoor seating area leading to a good AAA mark.
No sea view from the large indoor seating area
Normally when out of season cafes have a limited cake selection but this wasn't the case here as it was one of the best cake selections I have seen for sometime. There were also some big sponge cakes with real cream in the fridge. I was able to award a very high effective cake selection (ECS) score.
Part of the excellent cake selection
I went for date and ginger cake before noticing the brownie which I also needed to try as part of brownie of the year #BOTY. Andrew went for summer fruit crumble cake, beans on toast (which is not cake) and cappuccino.

We took our seats and I commented on how impressed I was with what I had seen so far so what could go wrong? Well I'll tell you what could go wrong they only went and served all 3 cakes on their serviettes. I kept very calmly and expertly extracted the napkins but all of them were ruined and rendered useless for future crumb wiping activity. Remember #keepcakeoffserviettes.
Arghhhh!!!! Cake served on it's serviette
Our drinks were both reasonably good and I found the cake to be excellent although Andrew preferred his beans on toast. The brownie was a good one and is in the running to make the brownie off in December although it's early days in my search.
Drinks and very large cakes
Despite the serviette issue I was very impressed with Sugar and Spice cafe and I'm sure it won't be my last visit. I highly recommend a visit.

As the cake portions were very generous we were unable to finish them all so I ended up taking half of it back to Crusader Towers. This was a mistake as when Mrs Crusader spotted cake in the kitchen she thought I had brought it back for her and was not impressed to find I had eaten the lot with my afternoon cup of tea. Suggesting that I was doing her a favour by helping with her weight management didn't seem to help the situation.

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating


Click here to download 34 mile Aylsham Bacton loop GPX file to your GPS

Thursday, 8 March 2018

India coast to coast day 10 and 11 (The end)

India coast to coast day 10 and 11
Day 10 was the shortest ride of the journey but it was packed with drama as Mrs. Crusader became the centre of a medical emergency. 

The ride was just 15 miles long and took us to the other side of a big lake that had inconveniently been placed in our way en route to the Arabian Sea. It mainly consisted of back roads alongside some rivers and streams. As we crossed a little bridge over one such stream, Mrs Crusader overestimated her braking skills and ended up in a heap on the ground.
Mrs Crusader spectecular tumbles off her bike (very slowly)
Fortunately she stayed down long enough for me to get the necessary photos. I also had time to check the travel insurance cover in case a helicopter evacuation was needed (it wasn't). Our guides were very excited as they were able to get out the first aid kit that they had been carrying for nearly a fortnight.
Emergency medical attention in action
The diagnosis was a slightly grazed knee which required an industrial sized plaster to be applied before the medical emergency could be officially resolved. 
Using a powerful microscope it might just be possible to see the grazer
For health and safety reasons Mrs Crusader was asked to carry her bike over all the remaining bridges.
Mrs Crusader carrying her bike over the remaining bridges
After so much excitement everyone was in need of refreshments as we arrived at today's tea shop. I'm pleased to report it was another good one being slightly off the beaten track. 
Today's tea shop stop
As it was early we were first customers of the day but our handsome barista soon had his state of the art coffee making facility up and running.
Our Barista for todays tea stop
He obviously knew his stuff as the tea was a nice clear one that scored well making this teashop the second best in India.
Good clear cup of tea
We continued round the lake admiring the views before parking up our bikes for the day.
Views of the lake and backwaters
The rest of the day and night was spent on a cruise round the backwaters on a converted rice barge before our final ride to the sea could begin.
Cruising the back waters

Day 11 of the journey started early as we headed for the coast. It was just a few miles away along the back roads. When we left the Bay of Bengal we had dipped our back wheels in the sea so when we arrived at the Arabian Sea it was the front wheels turn. Albeit with a slight misjudgment of the tide.
Poor tide judgement as it was only the front wheel that was meant to be dipped
The first part of our mission was finally complete but we still had a 30 mile ride up the coast to our final destination meaning there was still time to see if a new tea shop could make it into the Indian top 3. (See bottom of post for top 3 summary).
The first offering was a seaside town stop but the modern look and feel were not to my tastes and for some reason the barista had decided to keep his shirt on.
Too modern a tea shop for my tatses
The tea was consistent with the high quality we had enjoyed in Kerala but with only packet sponge cakes available this tea shop remained just outside the top three.
Good tea but bland cakes
We now set off on the charming coast road with posh houses separating us from the sea. Occasionally we crossed an inlet where there were fishing nets in action.
Fishing nets all along the coast
After too short a time we came to our last stop. It was an old new hybrid style tea shop mash up but overall a little bland.
Outside our final tea shop of the trip
It did have the best Indian snack we had tried, which was a sort of deep fried ginger cake, but the tea was only average so again it just missed out on top 3 glory.
Deep fried ginger cake type thing
As a bonus we were offered some fresh pineapple juice made from some of the baby pineapples we had seen in the wild earlier in the week. It was excellent but as pineapple juice is not tea it could play no part in this cafes rating
Pineapple smoothie
Then, with a final push up along the coast we were, sadly, at our journeys end.
Final stretch to our end point
As I sat under a nearby banyan tree, meditating, I reflected on what I had learnt.

1. South India is very hot and it doesn't snow much (or possibly ever).
2. White tea is called chai and should be avoided.
3. The people are very friendly and like to wave, a lot, waving back is encouraged.
4. Your bicycle bell is your best friend and more critical than your brakes.
5. The best baristas don't wear shirts.
6. There are over 70 million people in the state of Tamil Nadu which is 7.77 times more people than bicycles in Beijing (and that's a fact)
7. Never ever let your wife go out alone to do some shopping as she is likely to come back with a massage.
8. India is only the second largest producer of tea in the world so do your tea homework properly before you come here on a tea based mission.
9. The best tea shop in India is in Caddaloor and serves excellent ginger tea and Indian snacks.
10. No matter where you go in the world, at the end of the day tea is just a cup of tea and I will be sticking with hot chocolate as my cafe stop beverage of choice.

Top 3 Tea shops in India
1. Caddaloor, serves excellent ginger tea and traditional Indian savoury snacks. Charming indoor seating area
2. Kudavechoor. Off the beaten track gives this quaint tea shop a calm and relaxed feel. Very good tea and the barista certainly knew his stuff.
3. Vilangupara. Was in the up market rubber plantation area and had a fabulous indoor space plus room to sit outside. The tea was the best I found.

Cafe ratings
 Teashop Tea rating Food rating AAA Tea shop score
 Auraville visitor centre cafe day 2  3 4.67
 Caddaloor day 3 7 7.5 6.78 7.09
 Buvanagiri day 3 5.8 3 3.7 4.16
 Anakkarai day 4 4.5 6.8 5.6 5.63
 Reghunaedhapuram day 4 6.2 3.2 4.9 4.76
 Rayavaram day 5 6 5.2 6.9 6.03
 Kummankudi day 6 4 4 4.2 4.06
 Kilavalave day6 5.9 1 6.4 4.43
 Othakkadai Madurai day 6 6 3.8 3 4.27
 Uthamapalayam day 7 6.3 3.2 7 5.5
 Pampanar day 8 3.2 4.5 4.8 4.16
 Vilangupara day 9  6.8 4.2 7.4 6.13
 Kudavechoor day 10 6.1 5.3 8.3 6.56
 Artumkal day 11
 Kandakkadavu day 11

 Miles Average speed (Mph) Time riding (Hrs:mins)  Metres climbed
 Day1 Familiarisation  2.9 8.08 0:21 2
 Day 2 Puducherry loop 14 9.76 1:26 77
 Day 3 Puducherry to Chidambaram  63.2 12.68 4:59 119
 Day 4 Chidambaram to Tanjoure  41.9 12.35 3:23 69
 Day 5 Tanjoure to Chettinad 63.6 14.35 4:26 247
 Day 6 Chettinad to Madurai 58.1 14.22 4:05 238
 Day 7 Madurai to Thekkady 23.2 11.99 1:56 581
 Day 8 Thekkady to Vagamon 42.3 11.18 3:47 911
 Day 9 Vagamon to Kottayam 43.7 10.91 4:00 520
 Day 10 Kottayan round the lake 15 10.43 1:26 34
 Day 11 Top of lake to Cochin 35.8 12.02 2:58 50
 Overall 401.7 12.29 32:45 2850

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

India coast to coast day 9

India coast to coast day 9
After the disappointment of not finding that special cup of tea at the tea plantation yesterday, my morale was low as we set off on our last long journey of this trip. It was a 50 mile ride starting in the jungle. As a townie I'm not used to the ways of the jungle and I was awoken at dawn by the noisy jungle birds making a right racket. Apparently you get used to it if you live in the jungle for long enough, but I wasn't planning to.

Today's ride had a gentle start as we finished off yesterday's down hill section and returned to near sea level although the route still had lots of small sharp hills to keep us interested so there was still work to be done.
Mrs Crusader on an early morning descent
Although we had been in the jungle for a couple of days we had not seen a tiger despite the fact they live in the area. I was told you were unlikely to see one just wandering around and needed to go on a proper tiger safari, without the bike or bell. There was certainly no chance of seeing one now as we had moved into rubber country with plantations on either side of the road and tigers don't like rubber.
Rubber trees
We stopped at one such plantation for some rubber facts: 
1. India is the largest producer of rubber in the world (unlike tea)
2. After seven years you can start getting rubber juice from your tree 
3. A rubber tree will make you a profit of about 20 rupees (22p) a day.
Our guide giving a rubber tree milking demo
I noted the rubber facts down in my Indian facts spreadsheet and we were on our way again. Rubber was clearly a profitable business to be in as there were a lot of big posh houses lining the roads.
A big posh house brought with rubber money
It was time for today's tea stop and it was a good one, in keeping with the upmarket neighbourhood. It shot straight into my top 3 best tea shops in India.
A posh tea shop in the heart of the rubber district
There was space to sit outside plus a spacious indoor seating area with benches and tables. The female section of my now highly trained tasting team opted to hold a formal ginger tea review panel while I sensibly stuck with black tea therefore rendering their input useless.
Discussing the quality of their ginger tea
I have to admit it was a pretty good cup of tea and rather refreshing in the hot weather but at the end of the day it was still just a cup of tea.
Just a cup of tea
After the disappointing lack of tigers I had been particularly looking forward to the next part of the day as we went on a short pineapple safari. We were lucky enough to spot a young one asleep hidden in a bush of spiky leaves. It was very cute but we were told not to disturb it as we crept back to our bikes.
A young pineapple asleep in the sun
The terrain was now constant up and down in temperatures reaching the high thirties so we were tired and thirsty when we arrived at lunch. Seeing tropical fruit in the wild had been a great experience making my fresh pineapple smoothie even more enjoyable. I wondered if my baby pineapple would end up in a blender one day too. I hope so.
A wild pineapple that one day could grow up to be a smoothie
From here the ride continued in the same style for a few more miles before we had cleared all the hills and we were back on the flat. The countryside was now similar to the start of our trip with banana and palm trees lining the roads and lots of paddy fields. The Ox were back in force too. It made for an easy last few miles to our overnight stop.
Glad to see the return of the Ox
I was pleased to have finally had a nice cup of tea from a tea shop but had pretty much given up on any thought of finding anything better than "just a cup of tea". The final challenge now was to get to the Arabian Sea in one piece.

Tomorrow's weather forecast 

Cafe ratings

 Teashop Tea rating Food rating AAA Tea shop score
 Auraville visitor centre cafe day 2  3 4.67
 Caddaloor day 3 7 7.5 6.78 7.09
 Buvanagiri day 3 5.8 3 3.7 4.16
 Anakkarai day 4 4.5 6.8 5.6 5.63
 Reghunaedhapuram day 4 6.2 3.2 4.9 4.76
 Rayavaram day 5 6 5.6 8 6.53
 Kummankudi day 6 4 4 4.2 4.06
 Kilavalave day6 5.9 1 6.4 4.43
 Othakkadai Madurai day 6 6 3.8 3 4.27
 Uthamapalayam day 7 6.3 3.2 7 5.5
 Pampanar day 8 3.2 4.5 4.8 4.16
 Vilangupara day 9  6.8 4 7.2 6.00

 Miles Average speed  Time riding  Metres climbeed
 Day1 familiarisation  2.9 8.08 0:21 2
 Day 2 Puducherry loop 14 9.76 1:26 77
 Day 3 Puducherry to Chidambaram  63.2 12.68 4:59 119
 Day 4 Chidambaram to Tanjoure  41.9 12.35 3:23 69
 Day 5 Tanjoure to Chettinad 63.6 14.35 4:26 247
 Day 6 Chettinad to Madurai 58.1 14.22 4:05 238
 Day 7 Madurai to Thekkady 23.2 11.99 1:56 581
 Day 8 Thekkady to Vagamon 42.3 11.18 3:47 911
 Day 9 Vagamon to Kottayam 43.7 10.91 4:00 520
 Overall 350.9 12.39 28:21 2766