After jumping on the bike and Lycra bandwagon I quickly realised that all good cycle rides need to include a stop at a suitable cafe or tea room, but how do you find them and which are the best ones? With the aid of a new bike, a phone based spreadsheet and my scoring system I aim to locate and rate the top cafes and tearooms throughout Norfolk and beyond. So if you want to know the best routes and cafes for your cycle ride then this is my guide.
I have visited over 250 cafes in East Anglia plus many more further afield (in Great Britain, into Europe and across India). All of which have been written about on my blog. The reviews, routes and special rides (such as my recent ride up the Alps) can all be found on the website.
There is also news of my annual search for thing of the year, which is Egg on Toast in 2020 (2019 Fruit Scone, 2018, Brownie, 2017 Sausage roll, 2016 Flapjack, 2015 cheese scone, plus other exciting features.
And finally don't forget you can read more about my adventures in The Cake Crusader book. (Click here to read an article about it in local press)
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There must be rules
How does my cafe rating work? (Remember it's just my opinion based on what I find on the day).
What qualifies as a Cafe or tearoom?
I like hot chocolate and cake so the ratings are weighted towards these.
The 5 factors measured are:
1. Hot chocolate quality. (HCQ)
I'm looking for a thickish drink that has a distinctly chocolate taste. Most common issue is when the focus has mistakenly been put on the HOT rather than the CHOCOLATE part of the drink. A steaming anaemic drink, where the chocolate powder has been waved past the cup, with the resulting beverage tasting of burnt milk doesn't really do it. A standard Cadburys drinking chocolate gets a 6 (unless it is weak or cold).
2. Guest hot drink quality. (GHDQ)
My cycling guest (or guests) get to rate their hot drink (soft drinks don't count). There is more inconsistency here as type of drink and reviewer is much more variable. But it is rare for there to be a big difference between the HCQ and GHDQ and if there is I probe my guest further on their rating basis to try and get consistency. Again the temperature, strength and flavour are the key factors.
(Note: there is a GHDQ score ceiling of 7 for Tea because at the end of the day it is just a cup of tea)
3. Effective cake selection. (ECS)
The number of home made style cakes (e.g. nothing in a plastic wrapper) are reviewed and factored against how many I would actually like to try to give the effective cake selection (ECS) score. There is no absolute algorithm allowing for adjustments on just how tasty and desirable they look. Having 4 or 5 cakes I fancy would give a high score.
4. Cake Taste Quality. (CTQ)
Straight forward score of how good the cake tastes. If my cycling guest/s have also had cake then we agree a combined rating, although in the result of any disagreement my decision is final as I have more cake tasting experience to fall back on.
(Note: there is a CTQ score ceiling of 8 on a flapjack as it is not really cake although I allow them to count as cake as I'm rather fond of a bit of flapjack.)
5. Ambiance and atmosphere. (AAA)
Whilst sitting enjoying our refreshments we agree an AAA based on factors like view, noise, space, layout, feel, cycle friendliness etc.
Each is rated out of 10 and the following unweighted formula; (HCQ+GHDQ+ECS+CTQ+AAA)/5, is used to give the overall cafe or tearoom rating. I score the cafe on every visit but to keep ratings current only the last 3 scores count.
Other points to consider:
If a previously visited cafe is under new management when being revisited then any previous ratings will be discarded and the current visit would count as the first effectively wiping the slate clean.
For further consistency, once rated, I moderate the cafe against others of a similar rating to make sure the score feels right and they are a comparable cafe or tearoom.
It has often been suggested that I rate other things like service, price, toilets, other food etc. but as cake and hot chocolate are the main things I want from my refreshment stop then I don't want other factors to influence the overall rating. If my guests want these things rated I have often suggested to them they do their own spreadsheet and blog.(So far no one has)