When I was a little girl I had pretend tea parties. I didn’t have them for my teddy bears, but just for my sister and me. Basically, any opportunity to transform our make-believe play into a tea party, I seized. Our parents weren’t keen on their children regularly downing caffeinated cups of tea, however, so we had a tiny plastic tea play set that got filled with water instead. That didn’t matter to us. Reality wasn’t going to stop us from having our tea parties. On rare occasions, my dad would let us have real tea, but would fill the cup halfway with milk first, and two teaspoons of sugar. We loved it. Every other occasion possible, we would play.
In the bathtub (yes, I shared bath time with my siblings when I was a tot), my sister and I would play Tea Party with our plastic cups, also known as bath toys. I can still remember the taste of stale bathwater on my tongue as I poured it down pretending it was tea, and I remember the stark disappointment at coming face-to-face with the reality that imagining couldn’t make a thing true. I quickly ignored that fact.
We would even play Tea Party at the beach in summer, diving under water, trying to remain submerged, floating underwater with crossed legs and hands holding a pretend cup and saucer (pinky out, of course). We’d invariably pop up to the surface of the water, and dive back down again to continue (until one of us tired of it, and then we were mermaids).
I can’t really say why it was such a beloved game, but I think it was something to do with pretending to be grown up. Tea seemed to be a very mature and proper predilection. Additionally, as with most of my food fascinations, my dad had made a special connection for me. Each time he made my sister and me tea, he would tell us the story of having tea and toast with his grandmother.
His exact words are lost in my memory, but I remember him gently gushing about the privilege of sitting with his grandmother on her front porch with sugared tea and a plate of heavily buttered toast cut into lady fingers. I remember his expression of bliss, retelling how he dunked the lady fingers into the tea and the sweet and salty taste when he brought them to his mouth. It was clear that he cherished these memories with her, and was reminded of these beautiful moments in the tea. I wanted to feel what he felt, so I kept tea parties in my life as a blessing.
As we grew into adults, my sister and I discovered we would relive this childhood magic for real, with all the properness and fanciness (pinkies out, of course) we loved as children. We had our first High Tea experience at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto, and were reborn!
It was the beauty and indulgence we had been make-believe playing all along — delicate and ornate china tea cups, linens, gold carts, and tiered treats. It was perfect. It was also very expensive, and not something we could do every day, and so it remained special.
It turned into a tradition that we would treat the other to High Tea and manicures for the other’s birthday. This became a bit more complicated when we both started living vegan.
My sister started eating vegan before any of the rest of my family. In fact, she had been a vegetarian for most of her life, so it was a logical next step for her. Once her birthday rolled around, we were relieved to discover that the Windsor Arms offered a Vegan High Tea option, and we jumped at it. It was a HUGE disappointment.
Instead of offering vegan alternatives of our beloved menu favourites, they simply omitted. There was no devon cream for our scones, but we were still glad for the scones and devoured them with jam. The sandwiches, however, were just sad. At this point, all I can remember is the pitiful tomato pesto… They served basil “pesto” and tomato sandwiches on stale bread (we were certain it was bread that had been left out over night), and the “pesto” was simply basil and olive oil, and the tomato unseasoned. It may have been a “fresh” option if not for the stale bread sandwich, but even still… some salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and hemp seeds wouldn’t have hurt anyone. They had not tried to find alternatives, nor had they produced a suitable vegan option. I believe we left the sandwiches behind, and focused on the scones and the chocolate dessert. They served another dessert that was a gelatin-like mousse and assured us it was vegan, but given my experience with agar-agar and kappa carrageenan (the vegan gelatin substitutes), I’m pretty certain it was not. Shady.
Long story short: our grown up tea parties had come to a halt and we were bitterly disappointed. I took it upon myself to make us a proper Vegan High Tea, and started a new tradition. Now, each year for my sister’s birthday, I create a Vegan Tea Party just for her (and my mom, and me…), and it is divine.
Throughout my vegan journey, I have steadfastly committed to the belief that vegan recipes do not need to be lesser than their omnivore originals. Frankly, I am not about settling, and I make darn tasty vegan food.
I owe much of this success to Vegan Blogger, Wallflower Kitchen, because she is the resource I found when I was looking up Vegan High Tea recipes. My scone recipe is based off of hers, and what is a tea party without scones? It’s a sham.
My version of her recipe comes from trying to make hers with what I had on hand and making strange adjustments. To be honest, mine reads a little nuts, but it is SO perfect that I cannot even consider making it “properly.” So, if mine looks like insanity that you’d prefer not to delve into, just make Wallflower Kitchen’s version. I won’t be hurt. See below for mine, and head over to her vegan scones recipe here.
As for the clotted cream, I would recommend my version (NO OFFENCE MEANT – I love you, Wallflower Kitchen…). Her version is a further diversion from the original, including vegan cream cheese, and it’s just not the flavour I was looking for.
The recipe for Vegan Clotted Cream is actually shockingly easy and convincing. Ready for it? Take equal parts coconut cream solid (leave the watery stuff in the can), and vegan butter/margarine, with only a tiny bit of powdered sugar (no more than 1/2 tsp) and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate for keeping and allow to come to room temperature (or just about) before serving. DONE. Seriously, that’s it, and it is perfect.
The sandwiches and the desserts vary each time I plan my menu. This is where I have my most fun, experimenting with new pairings and recipes. I don’t have space in this post to write out each recipe, so I will give a few ideas below.
Vegan Scones – Based on Wallflower Kitchen Recipe
The strangest part of this recipe is the excess baking powder, which came about trying to make self-raising flour. It certainly does the trick, as bizarre as it appears. Likewise, to make caster sugar, I consistently grind up my organic cane sugar into a finer version. This recipe makes between 12 and 18 scones, depending on shape and thickness.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
- 3 1/3 cups of organic all purpose flour
- 7 tsp baking powder
- 5/8 cups cane sugar, ground finely (or caster sugar)
- 1/3 cup refined coconut oil (needs to be refined to avoid the fragrance of coconut) OR vegan butter
- 1/4 tsp salt (reduce to a pinch if using butter instead of coconut oil)
- 240 ml non-dairy milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix before adding sugar and salt. If using ground cane sugar, grind in a blender briefly to break up granules (don’t grind into powder), before adding to dry mix.
Add in oil/butter (in solid form, not melted) in small chunks to evenly distribute. With clean hands, mix oil and dry ingredients together to form coarse sand consistency.
Once mixture is fully incorporated, add in milk and mix to form a soft dough. Knead briefly and then roll out onto a lightly floured surface. You will want your dough to be rolled to roughly 1/2″ – 3/4″ thickness.
Cut out scones, usually in rounds or triangles, and place on baking sheet. You can lightly brush the tops with a vegan wash (2 parts non-dairy milk, 1 part maple syrup/agave), but I prefer to leave them soft and cakey.
Bake for 10-12 minutes and serve warm. They are beautifully soft with a slight crunch at the edges. They hold together perfectly and cut apart just as you would expect scones to do.
Vegan Tea Sandwiches
It is still amazing to me what a lacklustre experience the Vegan High Tea at Windsor Arms was. It is truly NOT difficult to make a delicious vegan finger sandwich. There are so many vegan alternatives for the usual staples, that if you wanted to put the least amount of creativity into making vegan tea sandwiches, you could still make a delicious and familiar vegan alternative.
Think of the usual menu for omnivores: cucumber and cream cheese, turkey and apple, chicken salad, tuna salad… Each of these can be made with vegan ingredients. It is up to you which direction you want to go — traditional, or adventurous. I usually go with a mix of both.
However, having discovered a PERFECT vegan tea sandwich recipe, I will always include one version in every Vegan High Tea Party from now on. There is a new vegan cheese company, Nuts for Cheese, that makes the most delectable vegan cheese wedges that make me forget about the dairy version. They make a Brie that is perfect for the classic Cucumber Cream Cheese tea sandwich. If this product is not available to you, I sincerely apologize for the tease — and if it is, pick it up NOW.
Cucumber and Nuts for Cheese Brie:
Simple pairing of thinly sliced cucumber, softened and spread brie.
“Chicken Salad” with Vegan Chicken:
Salad made with chopped vegan chicken (I use Gardein brand), mixed with vegan mayonnaise, green onions, and celery.
“Tuna Salad” with Vegan Fish:
Salad made with flaked vegan fish (I use Gardein brand filets with “skin” removed), mixed with vegan mayonnaise, salt and pepper, and mustard.
Spinach Bacon Ranch with Nuts for Cheese Chipotle Cheddar:
Mix together chopped baby spinach, and chopped water chestnuts with fake bacon bits, and vegan ranch (vegan mayonnaise with apple cider vinegar, dill, chives, and garlic powder). Spread softened chipotle cheddar cheese across the crustless bread, and add spinach mix.
Hummus and Caramelized Onion Pinwheels:
On a Spinach wrap, spread a layer of hummus and evenly distribute caramelized onions before rolling the wrap and slicing into 1″ sandwiches.
Have fun with it. Whatever your favourite full sized sandwiches are, they can be turned into a finger sandwich version. Just make sure to use store-bought sliced bread, cut off the crusts, and spread vegan butter on either side between the filling. Those are the tips I’ve learned that really make the difference between “meh,” and “OMG.”