‘There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea,’ wrote the American novelist, Henry James, in A Portrait of a Lady. Few would disagree with his praise of the most quintessentially English custom - which was introduced by the seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840. Like most of us, the Duchess became hungry (perhaps hangry?) by mid afternoon and faced a long wait until dinner - which was served at the fashionably late hour of eight o’clock (the same dining hour for Mr Collins in London in Pride and Prejudice). Without the benefit of a mid-afternoon Goupie; the Duchess asked for a tray of tea, cake, bread and butter to be bought to her room. This solitary snack soon became a daily ritual as she invited friends to join her. The upper class and society women sought to emulate the Duchess and soon transformed the tea into a fashionable event - by the 1880s women donned hats, gowns and gloves whilst they snacked and socialised in grand drawing rooms.
Traditional Afternoon Tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches, scones, cakes, pastries and, of course, cups of tea. The treat has grown in popularity with hotels, restaurants and cafes across the country offering their own take on the tradition. It has even ignited a famous feud between Devonshire folk and their Cornish neighbours regarding the correct layering of cream and jam (Devon commences with cream on the bottom and jam on top whilst the Cornish favour fruit first and finish with cream).
It may appear that, with all the talk of cakes, butter and pastries, a vegan Afternoon Tea would prove somewhat of a challenge. However, even the world-famous courts of Wimbledon welcomed vegan tennis fans by offering vegan-alternative creams, ice creams and sorbets to ensure everyone could enjoy the signature ‘strawberries and cream’ offer. In honour of Afternoon Tea Week (12th-18th August) we have put together a guide to hosting the ‘Ultimate Vegan Afternoon Tea’ with handy hints - alongside some super ‘shop-bought’ saviours...sssh! If that wasn’t enough - there is also a roundup of three places to enjoy a traditional, trendy or themed experience in the capital so you can enjoy a tasty tea without the effort…
Recipe for Success
Hosting an Afternoon Tea provides the perfect opportunity to get creative in the kitchen and expand your vegan recipe repertoire. Plant-based eating is on the rise with a host of environmentally aware chefs, food writers and foodies sharing their top tips. Take the time to look through the various figures out there… the Guardian has made a conscious decision to publish more sustainable, plant-based recipes in their relaunched supplement Feast and offer wonderful weekly ideas from Anna Jones, Thomasina Miers and ‘The New Vegan’ Meera Sodha. Check out the ‘Recipe’ section of the Goupie website for some irresistible inspiration (the lavender shortbread is perfect for Afternoon Tea) to help ensure you are the ‘host with the most.’ It is also worth investing in a few good vegan cookbooks to help you plan the perfect party...here are my favourite plant-based pioneers and their brilliant books for baking inspiration…
Ella Mills (nee Woodward) starting writing about her plant-based journey back in 2012 when she struggled to find delicious - and nutritious - dishes. Her website, ‘Deliciously Ella’ became a space where she could pursue her passion for plant-based eating and release her culinary creativity. The aim was purely personal - a way of encouraging herself to discover healthy, satisfying and exciting meals without sacrificing taste or falling into the rubric of dull deprivation. Deliciously Ella was about colour and excitement; creating a space of nurturing, nutritious abundance. Since then ‘Deliciously Ella’ has grown, cultivating a community of over 2.6 million fans worldwide through supper clubs, cookery classes, 5 best selling cookbooks (a 6th is in development as we speak), a deli in Weighhouse Street (a must visit for a London lunch) and a range of plant-based products including: energy balls, breakfast pots, granolas, muesli, oat bars, peanut butter balls and homemade frozen meals from her favourite recipes. There is also an inspiring weekly podcast, a Youtube channel and an incredible app which gives you access to hundreds of recipes for all occasions (new ones released every week). The latest Plant-Based Cookbook is full of baking ideas for an Afternoon Tea too; the ‘Almond Victoria’ cake is a real showstopper and makes a marvellously moist alternative to the ‘Victoria Sandwich’. Meanwhile, the ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’ will add a splash of colour to your teatime table. Don’t miss her twist on the classic ‘Carrot Cake’ with an irresistible cashew and cinnamon icing that works beautifully with the sweetness of the raisin and carrot sponge. Make the most of your favourite Goupie (I love using the Ginger) for the ‘Raspberry and Chocolate Chunk Cookies’ which are a fabulously fruity summer treat.
The Naturally Fast Food company has been at the forefront of revolutionising the way we eat for over 15 years (they celebrated their birthday in June with a new vegan menu including vegan ‘Jack Wings’, a range of coconut whipped ice creams and a red velvet vegan cake). 2019 marked the continuation of their journey with the launch of the cookbook Fast Vegan, which launched at the beginning of the year to coincide with ‘Veganuary’. This gem offers over 150 simple, flavoursome recipes for every possible occasion - from brilliant breakfasts and brunches to cracking canapes and show-stopping suppers. It is invaluable for anyone looking to embark on a more plant-based life; not only is there a knowledgeable introduction to vegan living (including the do’s and don’ts of vegan cooking, swaps and substitutes and advice on eating out) but a range of recipes inspired by cuisines around the world (Japanese sushi, Vietnamese pancakes, African stews and Mexican tacos alongside French inspired classics). There is a whole host of sweet treats to help create an amazing Afternoon Tea; try their simple scone recipe with whipped coconut (or cashew) cream and strawberry jam for a vegan version of the British classic (TOP TIP: chocolate fans (a.k.a Goupie Groupies) can add 100g of chopped Goupie - I love using the Hazelnut - for chocolate chip scones!). Don’t miss the fabulously fragrant Almond, Orange and Cardamom Cake which is wonderfully zesty and refreshing in the warmer weather. There is also a super simple and adaptable cookie recipe which is perfect to make with children who will enjoy adding their own twists and experimenting with different flavours of Goupie (Orange is ideal for the whole family whilst Espresso is great for grown-ups).
Melissa Morgan wrote Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town to allow everyone to enjoy delicious and decadent treats by showing how to make vegan cakes with simple recipes. After setting up London’s first vegan bakery in 2011 (where you can buy an amazing array of handmade vegan cakes, cookies and treats including Goupie!) Morgan wanted to reach out further. The top-selling goodies are included in this book - using readily available ingredients and offering gluten-free substitutions. Browse through the in-depth guide to vegan baking before revelling at the recipes including: fruity muffins, tray-bakes and no-bakes, gooey cookies and crunchy biscuits. Try topping the ‘Mint Choc Cupcake’ with Mint Goupieor add a chocolate crunch to the brilliant ‘Bakewell Tart Cupcakes’ with the Cherry and Almond. Take care not to miss the vegan ‘Jaffa Cakes’, ‘Coconut Bounty Cupcakes’ or the ‘Rhubarb and Custard Cake’ for a colourful centrepiece.
Short on time?
Here are a selection of ‘Shop Bought Saviours’
First things first - let’s start with the cakes! Say hello to OGGS - a company committed to ‘changing the future one bite at a time.’ They strive to stop animal cruelty and help heal the planet by switching mass-produced food ingredients from animal to plant proteins - allowing you to still enjoy your favourite foods. Their range of delicious delights includes a ‘Zesty Lemon Cake’ which is ideal for a refreshing summer centrepiece. The ‘Mini Victoria Sandwiches’ are marvellously moorish with their sweet jammy centre, whilst the ‘Chocolate Fudge Cakes’ are pure indulgence (try adding a swirl of vegan buttercream and a piece of Salted Sticky Toffee Goupie). The deliciously decadent ‘Salted Caramel Cakes’ are not to be missed but simply must be served alongside the individual ‘Zesty Lemon Cakes’ (top with a piece of Lemon Meringue Goupiefor extra finesse). OGGS have also developed a way of selling the plant-based liquid egg substitute ‘aquafaba’ for hassle-free baking and no faffing with tins of chickpeas!. Check out their website to learn more about their inspiring vision, discover a whole host of recipe inspiration (the orange and cranberry scones are perfect for a twist at teatime) and more information on stockists.
Available in Waitrose and Sainsburys: https://www.loveoggs.com/
Check out the astounding array of naturally sweet treats from the award-winning vegan and gluten-free snack company Livia’s. Founded by Olivia Wollenberg (who created Deliciously Ella’s wedding cake) Livia’s offers a selection of four innovative goodies designed to promote their ‘Better treat yourself’ philosophy. You (and your guests!) will be in for a treat with the orange, salted chocolate or salted peanut butter ‘Million Squares’ - available in sharing tubs and individual packs for on-the-go munching. The squidgy little ‘Nugglets’ (available in salted almond butter, raw cookie dough and raw choc brownie) are perfect in little bowls around a tea-table or as decorations for cakes and cupcakes. Be sure to try the brilliant ‘Biccy Boms’ which are velvety, chocolate coated biscuit bites with an irresistibly sweet centre (you will struggle to choose between salted caramel and double chocolate - available in snack packs or sharing tubs). Don’t miss the delicious ‘Dunx’ cookies dipped in a choice of caramel almond, chocolate hazelnut or peanut butter and jelly - they are so scrumptious you will be tempted to claim them as your own (ssssh!). Check out their website as the talented team constantly develop a variety of vegan recipes (try the Espresso Cupcakes topped with chopped Moccachino Goupie) and are always looking into launching exciting new ranges.
Available in Boots, Holland & Barrett, Ocado, Planet Organic, Sainsburys, Selfridges, Tesco, Waitrose, Wholefoods, and WHSmith: https://livias.co.uk/
For the best of both worlds check out Bells & Whistles who use simple processes and the finest ingredients to create indulgent, free-from foods in three fabulously flavoured chocolatey cake slices. Enjoy the ‘Berry and Cashew’ for a burst of fruity cranberries and raspberries combined with roasted cashew ganache on a nutty coconut and almond base. Fudge fans will love the ‘Nut Truffe’ with it’s super scrummy roasted pecan and hazelnut ganache and white chocolate topping. The ‘Ginger and Apricot’ is also not to be missed - the warming ginger marries perfectly with the sweet chopped apricots and dark chocolate, with the all important crunch coming from the chopped pistachios.
Available in Sainsburys: https://bells-whistles.co.uk/
Complete your table with a selection of brilliant biscuits from Nairns - the largest producer of oatcakes in the UK. The team at this sensational Scottish company are experts in the baking business having honed their craft since 1896. The company and range of recipes may have grown but the ethos remains - ensuring they produce tasty, wholesome and minimally processed food, packed with natural goodness. By proudly supporting their trusty local farmers and millers they can ensure that their biscuits are made with only the finest wholegrain oats nature can provide. They offer a range of oat-based products (with a whole host of gluten-free options too). The brand new ‘Chunky Biscuit Breaks’ have a wonderfully crumbly texture and are available in a moorish ‘Dark Chocolate and Coconut’ or fruity ‘Blueberry and Raspberry’ flavour. Fans of Ginger Goupie will simply love the ‘Stem Ginger Oat Biscuits’ or why not try the ‘Coconut and Chia’ for a taste of the tropics (get creative and add your own toppings). If you want to whip up your own flapjacks - check out their top quality ‘Scottish Porridge Oats’ which are ideal for both breakfasts and baking. If you are pushed for time try their ‘Oat Bars’ for a fabulous oaty alternative - Orange Goupie fans will love the ‘Cacao & Orange’ whilst those with a sweet tooth must try the ‘Apple & Cinnamon.’ If you love our protein packed Sesame Butter Goupie then the ‘Mixed Seeds’ flavour is the one for you.
Available in Holland & Barrett, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose and online: https://shop.nairns-oatcakes.com/
Out and About
There are a whole host of extra special Afternoon Teas in the capital, below is a roundup of the best places to go for a ‘Themed’, ‘Traditional’ or ‘Trendy’ tea…
Themed - If you fancy something a little different than why not try a themed Afternoon Tea? Tumble down the rabbit hole and tantalise your tastebuds at the Sanderson hotel with their amazing Alice in Wonderland spread. The separate vegan menu is full of super scrummy sweet and savoury treats including ‘White Rabbit Cucumber Sandwiches’, ‘Grilled Vegetables, Tomato and Avocado Superseed Roll’ and ‘Mushrooms Duxelle and Avocado Sandwiches.’ The sweet selection is all inspired by Lewis Caroll’s famous book with options named after characters: ‘Queen of Hearts Pecan, Chocolate and Coconut Cookies’, ‘Tweedle Dee Orange and Peanut Butter Cupcakes’, ‘Mad March Hare Beetroot and Almond Battenberg’ and ‘Chocolate and Pistachio Blue Caterpillar’ to name a few…
Available daily in The Restaurant at Sanderson, from £48: https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/originals/originals-sanderson-london/eat-drink/mad-hatters-afternoon-tea#
Traditional - The epitome of glorious gastronomy! Fortnum & Mason is, arguably, the most famous food halls in the country. Ever since their opening in 1707 the Piccadilly store has been an essential destination for anyone in search of extraordinary food and exceptional service. A favourite of the Royal Family and famed for their luxurious hampers - a trip to Fortnum & Mason is always a memorable moment. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is the definition of elegance and splendour - named in honour of the Queen’s visit in 2012 when she opened the room alongside the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge. There really is no better place to enjoy a timeless, traditional Afternoon Tea with something for everyone (‘made without gluten’, ‘dairy-free’ children’s and vegan options available) on their award winning menus. The vegan treats encapsulate the fine art of the teatime tradition with dainty sandwiches (traditional ‘Cucumber and Mint’ in amongst trendy flavours of ‘Grilled Courgette and Artichoke Pesto’, ‘Pulled Jackfruit and Cos lettuce’, ‘Crushed Avocado and Chilli’ and ‘Black Olive Tapenade with Roast Pepper’), sublime scones and sweet treats (think stunning ‘Strawberry Jelly Shortbreads’, innovative ‘Raspberry and Avocado Mousse’, zesty ‘Citrus Meringue with Grapefruit and Coconut Yogurt’, tempting ‘Banana and Chocolate Teacake’ and a rich ‘Rhubarb and Vanilla Cheesecake’) alongside a selection of their famous teas.
Available at Fortnum & Masons, from £55.00: https://www.fortnumandmason.com/restaurants/afternoon-tea
Trendy - Famous vegan hang out by CHLOE. arrived in London in the summer of 2018 in the hope of expanding their mission to share wonderfully wholesome plant-based food without compromising flavor, taste or satisfaction. The mind-blowing menu celebrates locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients by transforming them into delicious dishes made daily by chefs. The philosophy is simple - serve hearty and nourishing meals made from fresh ingredients. Expect everything from super salads (‘Kale Caesar’, ‘Spicy Thai’ and ‘Quinoa Taco’), perfect pastas (Avocado Pesto and Cashew Mac’n’Cheese) brilliant burgers (and their famous Pesto Meatball Sub) and brunches - alongside London specials such as ‘Tofu Fish and Chips’ and the ‘Royal Roast'. At the weekends you can enjoy a vibrant vegan Afternoon Tea with an assortment of Baby Sweets, Tea Sandwiches, Good & Proper Teas and Champagne. Try the tempting sandwich selection including: ‘Tuna Salad’ with chickpea tuna, mayonnaise and onions on granary bread, ‘Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese’ with marinated beef tomato, dill and cashew mozz on beetroot loaf, ‘English Cucumber Basil’ with cashew mozz and avocado on basil bread and ‘Egg Salad’ with scrambled tofu and seasonal salad on a nutritious nutty rye bread. You are spoilt for choice with the sweet offering… Enjoy ‘Rainbow Star Scones’ with strawberry jam and coconut whipped cream, ‘Victoria Sponge Bars’, ‘Chocolate Whoopie Pies’, ‘Carrot Cake’ and ‘Red Velvet Cupcakes’.
Available every weekend 2.30-6.00pm at One Tower Bridge, from £20.00: https://eatbychloe.com/menus/