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

Available on Amazon


Thursday, 29 March 2018

More training less sofa dejavu. (Jane's Coffee Corner, East Rudham)

Janes Coffee Corner,
East Rudham,
Opening times Tues-Sat 9:30-3:00,
Recommended 
As I may have mentioned I am planning to ride the length of the Pyrenees in June to help get you in the mood for the Tour de France as I test out the best cafes for the peleton to stop at during the long days in the mountains. I will be taking Andrew (who is notoriously hard to please) as my cycling guest. However it looks quite a tough trip as there are 11 major climbs to take on as we average over 60 miles a day. With all the recent bad weather then outdoor riding opportunities have been limited so I thought it was time to up our training. 
Route of the Cake Crusader TDF special in June
A couple of years ago we had had a very pleasant ride out from Hard to Please House (HTPH) in Aylsham to East Rudham which was 58 miles so seemed an ideal choice for our first longer training run. Andrew had performed badly that day and complained of feeling unwell with a virus (I diagnosed it as a severe bout of laziness). It led to a very useful cycling guest cycling top tip.

Cycling guest cycling top tip No 50. To avoid being tired on your cycle rides try getting off your sofa and out on your bike more often.

Since we last went the tea room had been taken over so I would have two dead birds this trip as I planned to include a review of the new offering, Jane's Coffee Corner, as well. 

Things started badly as when I arrived at HTPH I was greeted with the news that Andrew had once again been laid low with a "virus" and had not been out on his bike much recently but resting on the sofa.

This did not bode well and only got worse as we set off in to a typical Norfolk wind (always a into us no matter what direction we were going). However, maybe I was being unfair as Andrew started surprisingly strongly while launching into a series of topical rants. But soon it was clear that he had once again not followed Cycling guest cycling top tip No 50 as he insisted on stopping every few minutes to take photos of 'the lovely spring day', which just seemed like an excuse for another rest!

We rode further and further apart as Andrew stopped for more and more "photos" until we arrived at Jane's Coffee Corner. Which wasn't really in the corner of East Rudham but opposite the common next to the pub.

Outside Sues Coffee Corner 
As in its previous incarnation as well as a cafe it sells antiques. There was also an art class going leading to a good atmosphere and ambiance score.
Oh look another photo of  'a lovely spring day'
But we weren't here for antiques or art so it was straight to the cake selection which was a good one although sadly no brownies for #BOTY. I went for chocolate cake and Andrew carrot cake (in honour of the Easter Bunny who will be out and about this weekend). He decided to have a cup of tea to go with it.
Part of the cake selection featuring a carrot cake
Our drinks and cakes soon arrived and as we tested them I compared the scores with the old cafe that was here. Spookily enough the rating came out the same although this time around our drinks didn't score as highly but the cakes were exceptionally good and got a much higher mark so, as before, I recommended a visit.
Excellent Chocolate and carrot cake
Despite delaying tactics I eventually got Andrew back on his bike for the ride back which was again into the wind. It was clear training needs to go up a notch so I have arranged another long ride for next week which I shall double up with as an opportunity to collect brownie to test from the Holt area. 
Scores 

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
5
7
7.3
8.4
7.1
6.96

Route

Click here to down load 56 mile Alysham East Rudham loop gpx file to your gps



Saturday, 24 March 2018

Missing the Jungle. (Jungle Cafe, Beccles)

Jungle Cafe,
Beccles,
Opening times Every day 10-4:00,
Recommended 
I was already missing the tropical experience of cycling in India so to help ease me back into cold, wet and windy cycling I had chosen to go to the Jungle cafe near Beccles for yesterday's cafe cycle ride. I hoped the potential of sitting amongst palm trees would help my acclimatisation.

Big George was today's cycling guest and as always most of the outward journey was spent discussing important matters of the day such as the different things we had recently added to spice up our porridge. That morning I had gone for pineapple chunks to get me in the jungle mood (it was a mistake).

It was an extremely windy ride down to Beccles so progress was slow. Things were delayed further when Big George decided he was a bit too warm so wanted to remove the sleeves from his new convertible jacket in order to put it into gilet mode. It was like a scene from the generation game as Big George struggled with zips and pockets to get it set up and by the time he had done it the sun had gone in and we were cold again.
Big George struggles to convert his jacket to a gilet
After another few miles we found the Jungle cafe at the Urban Jungle garden centre on the A145. 
Outside Jungle cafe near Beccles
Fellow cycle cafe experts will know that there is a second Jungle Cafe just outside Norwich which I have been to several times. The set up of this one is the same with the tables set amongst tropical plants.
Our choice of table amongst the Jungle plants
The cake selection was good and I was pleased to be able to also have some brownie to check out as part of brownie of the year #BOTY. You can find out the current potential finalists (with pictures) on the thing of the year page on my new website. You will have to go there to see if this one is in the running. (click here)
Cake selection including Brownies
They don't have a fancy coffee machine at Jungle cafes but instead you can choose your  bean to have in a cafeteria. As Big George wanted a cappuccino it wasn't to his liking but he had a Guatemalan bean and some hot milk as the next best thing.
Our cakes and drinks in a jungle setting
I went for Ginger cake with my hot chocolate which came with mini marshmallows on the side. I thought the hot chocolate was excellent and probably the best this year. The ginger cake was good too. As it was Big Georges turn to pay he was not happy as it was one of the more expensive cafes I have taken him to.

I enjoyed having my drink and cake it a slightly different environment so like the other Jungle cafe I would recommend a visit.

I think I'm now ready to move on from all the jungle based action of the last few weeks and as my next adventure is in the Pyrenees I will be looking for some patisserie style venues for my next few rides.
Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
8.4
5.2
7.1
7.5
7.3
7.10

Route
Click link to down load 50 mile Norwich Beccles loop gpx file for your gps

Friday, 16 March 2018

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

Sugar and Spice,
Bacton,
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.
Scores

Hot Choc Quality
Guest Hot Drink Quality
Effective Cake Selection
Cake Quality
Ambiance and Atmosphere
Café Rating
6.4
6
8.9
7.6
7.5
7.25

Route

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
 6.1
 6
 6
 7.3
 6
 5
 6.033
 6.1


Stats
 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