There is not many more occasions more English than an afternoon tea! But you don’t have to dine at the Ritz hotel to enjoy one. Like many ‘traditional pastimes’, the truth is not always so pretty. Most afternoon teas served these days use factory-farmed milk and battery eggs, inferior tea and a few cucumber sandwiches, making the experience highly over-priced, considering what it is. However, there are some delightful plant-based afternoon tea options to be had around the country. Or even better, make your own! Avoid caffeine for pregnancy/nursing.
Of course, the main ingredient is home-made plant-based scones. This post has plenty of recipes, from traditional to fruity to cheesy!
choose a good jam
Beach Plum Jam (Fare Isle)
People in Devon (home of the scone) say it’s jam first, then cream on top. Sounds right, or things could get a bit messy! You could make your own jam (you brave thing, you!) or if bought, choose a good brand. Now is the time to support your local farm shop or lady in the market who makes her own. They will be packed with local fruits and less sugar, and taste better. And it’s a good way to support your local economy. You could also find good jam if your community has a local canning movement.
how to make vegan clotted cream
You can’t buy vegan clotted cream as yet, but you can make it. You can find a recipe for vegan clotted cream at Wallflower Kitchen (made with coconut cream, vegan cream cheese and icing sugar). You can sweeten with icing/powdered sugar for best results. However, know that a lot of icing sugars contain egg (some are filtered through bone char), so choose a plant-based version like Suma or use a little stevia to sweeten instead.
Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake (Bojon Gourmet) wrap the berries and juices in a blanket of vegan whipped cream, sat on homemade scones.
cucumber of ‘vegan egg’ sandwiches
These are the two sandwiches of choice for an authentic afternoon tea. So it’s good bread, lashings of vegan butter and some sliced cucumber. The way to stop them going soggy is to sprinkle the cucumber slices with salt and leave for 10 minutes, then pat dry with a reusable kitchen towel. You could also use your favourite vegan cream cheese to protect the cucumber from the bread! Try this recipe for Vegan Egg Salad Sandwiches (So Vegan) that uses tofu with turmeric (for the yellow colour) and black salt (the sulphur makes it taste and smell like real egg!)
a pot of organic tea
We have a whole post about that! See how to make a proper pot of tea! And be sure to serve your afternoon tea in ceramic cups, or a pretty no-bone china mug (real bone china does indeed come from animals killed to make it). Cupsmith Organic Afternoon Tea is a delightful blend of organic Chinese and Indian teas with jasmine, rose petals and bergamot. The little plastic-free pyramids allow the larger leaf tea to brew properly, then compost after use. Emma draws and paints all the packaging herself, inspired by a picture-perfect house in the village near Cupsmith HQ!
Scones are very popular, so why not forgo the plastic packaging and animal ingredients, and bake your own? Here are a few nice recipes to try. In the US, scones are called ‘biscuits’ and often served for breakfast with gravy.
This cake is a real traditional tea time treat in England. This vegan coffee walnut cake (Domestic Gothess) keeps things plant-based, covered in a homemade ‘buttercream’. All the ingredients are easy-to-find and affordable, and this tastes better than anything you could buy in the supermarkets.
Use vegan butters with no palm oil. Keep this recipe away from pets due to toxic ingredients (like coffee and nuts).
The recipe uses vegan butter (we like Naturli found in stores, as it’s free from palm oil). It also uses icing sugar for the buttercream, we like Suma as it’s one of the few eggless brands around, or just make your own icing sugar (easy!)
These vegan scones with treacle (Domestic Gothess) offer something different. These are nice warm with palm-oil-free vegan butter (we like Naturli) and the recipe creator likes to (wickedly!) drizzle them with golden syrup. Or serve with jam and vegan clotted cream. And of course, a proper pot of tea!
Use vegan butters with no palm oil. Keep this recipe away from pets due to toxic ingredients (like fresh dough).
Treacle is richer in taste a bit more bitter than golden syrup (Lyle’s owns the world’s oldest unchanged packaging from 1883 though it’s a bit depressing – a Biblically-inspired dead lion surrounded by bees – you can add it to hot plant milk for a nice drink, but brush your teeth afterwards!)
Back to treacle – it’s made (a bit like molasses) from what’s remained after nasty white sugar is refined (check as some brands use bone char to filter, but not Lyle’s treacle although some people can’t eat it due to natural sulphites). In Middle England, treacle was used in apothecaries and by herbalists to treat snakebite! The word comes from the Latin ‘triacula’ meaning ‘concerning venomous beasts!’
Back in the day, Cornish fisherman would celebrate with a drink called Mahoagony. If you want to give it a go, it’s two parts local gin and one part treacle (?!)
This strawberry vegan Victoria sponge (Cupful of Kale) proves that you can have your afternoon tea, even if you’ve gone plant-based. Made with natural ingredients (including vegan butter – we like Naturli as it’s free from palm-oil), serve this with a big pot of English breakfast tea.
The sponge is made with a homemade oat milk buttercream (use Suma’s eggless icing sugar), then is served with fresh strawberries and delicious strawberry jam. Did you know that the cake indeed takes its name from Queen Victoria, as it was her favourite teatime treat? She would enjoy it with friends at her summer home on the Isle of Wight.