A man dubbed the ‘Cream Tea Crusader’ believes he has finally found the Holy Grail of afternoon teas – after testing 250 different versions in just five months.
Scone-lover Ditch Townsend, 49, is dedicated to seeking out Britain’s best place for a cream tea – and will often devour up to EIGHT in one day.
He prefers the ‘Devon’ method – cream on first – but has developed a formula to judge the scone, jam, cream, tea and setting – and has come across one place that ticks all the boxes.
After a lengthy search, he claims the best around is The Old Forge Caf? in Chagford in the stunning rolling hills of Dartmoor National Park in Devon.
Father-of-four Ditch, who records all his reviews in an online blog, said: “My favourite is the Old Forge Caf?, for a few reasons.
“Firstly because it is a lovely setting, the caf? itself is tastefully done out and run by a doctor who prefers to use his culinary skills.
“Secondly the scone is presented beautifully in a little basket, with lovely leaf tea.
“Thirdly they serve an unbelievably tasty cream tea with very tasty jam.
“They have the whole package. For me, it is the gold standard for a cream team – but I’m looking for someone to beat it.”
Married Ditch, from Eggesford, Devon, embarked on his crusade after taking a sabbatical from his career in the care industry.
He says that as long as people stick to wholesome ingredients then there isn’t much to go wrong with a cream tea.
But he said he was disappointed by the overall standard he has come across in several places.
The cardinal sin is to not use clotted cream – and setting an ambiance is just as important as the food.
He said: “This hunt was all just inspired by my love of cream teas.
“Having settled in Devon for the last six years I discovered there is a huge range in quality.
“I’m really disappointed when I come across, which happens very often actually, cream teas which could be easily improved.
“I just want to let people know where the good places are.
“There’s a lot of personal preference, but I would weed out anything that doesn’t come with clotted cream.
“Then I would weed out the places which aren’t a relaxing place – I’m sure that many of them do a nice cream tea, but I would never have one in a shopping centre, or a department store, it has to be somewhere nice.”
Ditch also says the perfect cream tea needs a good choice of jam.
“You need to have a jam which actually has fruit in it, and tastes like what it’s supposed to be.
“About a quarter of the ones I have tried have what I would describe as a red flavoured blob. It is very off putting, there’s no need for it, all you need to do is buy some jam with some fruit in it.
“It doesn’t have to be Cornish cream, a Devon cream tea in Devon should have Devon cream though.
“As for the scone, please don’t offer me donut mix, some people squish them up with a bit of milk and pretend it’s a scone, it’s just ugh.
“Apart from that, I’m very open.”
Not surprisingly, Ditch has strong opinions on the debate between the ‘Devon’ and ‘Cornish’ methods.
“I prefer the cream on first, but not because it is the Devon thing, it’s just my preference,” he said.
“I have a moustache, so I need a cream that if it goes on first it acts as plaster so that the jam doesn’t fall off – if you put the jam on first it will always just fall off.”
His next two favourites are Nelly May’s in Ilfracombe, the Corn Dolly in South Molton and the Oak Barn in Budleigh Salterton – all in Devon.
Ditch’s journey around cream tea shops is not yet complete, but he said the calories are starting to become a problem.
He said: “The biggest danger I face is all those calories.
“I do between six and eight cream teas in a day, but I only come across one or two places that I like in a day.
“I try to eat just one eighth of a scone with cream and another eighth without, but I lose the odd battle when I stumble into somewhere exceptional.
“My next task is to tackle the swathe of places around Devon’s south coast and I am expecting another hundred reviews at least.”
Ditch’s blog can be found at http://devoncreamteas.info/