Anyone for tea? A visit to the South Devon Chilli Farm

A cream tea. Scone, clotted cream and jam in a delicious sweet messiness, washed down with a cup of tea. Or two.

Simple, successful and doesn’t need changing. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it and all that.

But someone has changed it. And actually, it’s pretty darn good.

Imagine the scepticism that met the offering of a savoury cream tea at the South Devon Chilli Farm‘s awesome cafe. There were sandwiches, burritos, soups, all with the chilli touch of course. But a savoury cream tea? This had to be seen to be believed.

But it was more than believed by this little food monster – it was loved.

Two delicious looking cheese scones, light and fluffy. Still warm from the oven. The kind that make you want to just bite straight into them, not wait for the politeness of cutting them, putting stuff on and then eating in dainty little bites. The kind that make you want to throw manners to the wind and dive into their soft crumbiness.

So what do you serve with a savoury cream tea. Well, at first glance it looked like jam and cream. Hang on a minute, this can’t be right. But no, it’s an optical illusion. Not quite to the extreme scale of good old Heston, but I’ll wager more enjoyable than some of his crazy creations. It’s not cream, it’s thick, smooth, rich cream cheese. Probably similar in the calorie count (I didn’t even bother putting this into My Fitness Pal), the richness and the texture, but a savoury alternative that completely alters the style of the “scone and cream”.

And then there’s the jam – yep you guess it, since we’re at the chilli farm, it’s chilli jam. Not too hot, not too sweet, but with just the right bite to wake your taste bids up with a zing and to contrast with the smooth creaminess of the cheese.

It’s one of those moments where the first mouthful is a tentative, careful assembly of scone, cream and jam (or does it go scone, jam and cream? Nobody can ever agree). But after that one mouthful, it’s a gradual acceleration, with each piece becoming more and more hastily put together; little experiments of quantities of cream and jam, but nothing that holds up the delight that each bite brings. Yes, it really was that good! Even the mister, with his yummy chilli chicken sandwich, was a wee bit jealous.

This was just the start of a fab foodie experience at SDCF. Tucked away just outside Salcombe, it’s an unexpected world of all things chilli. Polytunnels line up where all sorts of varieties of chillis grow, waiting to be sold, or harvested and made into the farm’s own sauces, chocolates, jams, and all sorts!

You wouldn’t tell by looking at it, but 150 varieties of chilli are grown here, including the new king of the hot jungle – the Trinidad Scorpion.

The South Devon Chilli Farm

The farm harvests 10 tonnes every year from its 10,000 plants and can churn out 1,000 bottles of sauce a day. Believe me, when you see the tiny team and small workspace, you’ll know this is no mean feat. These go to chilli fans across the country and are stocked in hundreds of retailers, including the high-end guys like Harrods and Selfridges. Maybe that’s where the cream tea idea came from? Who knows.

There’s an emphasis on all the diverse things you can do with chillis, and the fact they’re not just about blowing your head off.

“To us, there’s more to chillies than just the heat,” Kaz Lobendhan from the farm tells me.

And she’s right – turns out my cream cheese calorie-fest is counteracted by all the health benefits from chilli. Apparently they’re full of vitamins A and C and will increase my metabolism. Great – there’s my excuse ready made!

We leave SDCF with some new additions to the family in the form of two tiny chilli plants that Mr Manning plans to cultivate to greatness. Not to mention a range of chilli chocolate and some lovely chipotle smoked chillis, plus the plans to go back whenever we’re next darn sarf for a chilli refuel.

The shop at the South Devon Chilli Farm

Of course, I’ve also come away with my new recipe find – the savoury cream tea. And in case you were wondering, although the ingredients of a traditional cream tea might have been tweaked but one thing is unchanged – that nice cup of tea to wash it all down with!