Looking for some vegan afternoon tea recipes to host your own British tea party at home? It’s so much fun to create your own English afternoon tea for you and your partner, your friends or your family. I’ll show you exactly what to serve with tea with an easy afternoon tea menu. Plus, I’ll share how to create the most elegant setting for afternoon tea at home. First, allow me to share the beginnings of English afternoon tea and high tea.
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The Origins of British Afternoon Tea and High Tea
The origins of drinking tea dates all the way back to the third millennium BC in China. According to legend, Shennong, the Father of Agriculture discovered tea when dried leaves fell from a Camellia tree into his pot of boiling water. The tea leaves infused and created the very first pot of tea. Shennong named the beverage, “cha” in Mandarin Chinese.
Even though camellia sinensis is native to China, India, Burma, and Thailand, it was usually used in herbal medicines or as a religious offering. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), drinking tea grew in popularity and enjoyed by all people.
Much later in the 1660s, tea was introduced to England by Catherine de Braganza, the Portuguese wife of King Charles II after they wed. Tea prices were very expensive until the 1800s. Once the cost of tea became affordable for everyone, the culture of tea spread across England.
In 1840, Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, introduced the concept of afternoon tea to the country. She dined with her family for dinner around 8:00pm, and Anna grew hungry between the lengthy break between lunch and dinner. So, in the late afternoon each day, Anna requested a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake to tide her over. Her friends soon joined her to drink tea and eat little pastries, and other aristocratic circles started to participate in the ritual. This daily tradition to pause for afternoon tea became a widespread phenomenon and social event across England.
What’s the Difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea?
Although many use the terms “afternoon tea” and “high tea” interchangeably, they’re not the same thing. Afternoon tea can also be called “low tea” because the ladies used to sit in low armchairs to sip the tea, and it was typically served on lower tables. Traditional afternoon tea was a fashionable affair with a strict tea etiquette where you must mind your manners. Tea flowed from silver tea pots into china cups. There was a selection of dainty sandwiches, cakes, pastries, and scones with preserves and clotted cream.
By contrast, high tea was served on a high table to members of the working class. As the lower classes didn’t have time to take an afternoon lunch break, they drank tea and ate heavier food right after work around 5:00pm. The kinds of food associated with high tea were meats, cheeses, savory pies, potatoes, and casseroles.
What You Need to Set the Scene
Here’s how you can decorate so you can make your own afternoon tea at home. As I follow a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle, I’m going to show you how to set up the perfect vegan tea party. Just as much as you’ll need vegan afternoon tea recipes, it’s important to set the scene for your gathering.
First, start by placing a white table cloth over your table for a clean setting. Add a small vase of flowers to the table. Add elegant lace doilies and folded napkins, too. It’s also a nice touch to write the names of your guests on folded cards in a fancy calligraphy style.
Next, you’ll need some pretty tea cups, saucers, and small plates for each guest. It’s possible to order floral tea cup and saucer sets for your fancy afternoon tea at home. However, it might be just as fun to check out your neighborhood second hand shop to find antique tea cups. Even if they don’t match, it’s equally as fun to own a whole variety of kitschy cups and saucers for the occasion. It might be fun to splurge on a fancy tea pot or how about a clear tea pot (also fantastic for blooming tea)?
You’ll want to invest in at least one 3 tier cake stand, depending on how many people you decide to entertain at your party. This will be your main centerpiece and will hold all of your pastries and little sandwiches. Put some sugar and plant-based milk on the table for your guests. Play some quiet music in the background and you’ll be all set. Now, it’s time to talk about one of the most important components of vegan afternoon tea: the tea!
The Best Vegan Tea to Serve
Let’s talk tea. What’s the best kind of tea to serve at a traditional British afternoon tea? Your guests will likely have different tastes when it comes to their favorite tea so it’s a good idea to have several varieties on hand. Feel free to brew a small teapot using loose leaf tea for all of your guests. Here are some of the top 10 teas to serve at an authentic English afternoon tea party.
Earl Grey Tea
Earl Grey is one of the most famous flavors of black tea, known for its citrus aroma. It’s black tea with bergamot (a type of orange fruit) to add some natural sweetness. You can try a traditional organic earl grey tea or organic cream of earl grey, a creamy alternative with hints of vanilla.
English Breakfast Tea
English Breakfast Tea will perk you up first thing in the morning or help beat the midday blahs. Try this English Breakfast Tea, a blend of organic Assam and ceylon black teas for a bold cup. Feel free to add a splash of soy milk to this one.
Nepal Black Tea
Another delicious black tea to add to your collection is this organic Nepal black tea. It’s grown in the highlands of Nepal from a family owned tea garden called Jun Chiyabari. This black tea is a little bit sweet and it’s bold without being bitter.
For something a little bit different, mint tea is always a refreshing favorite that even helps aid digestion (might be good after eating a bunch of little cakes!). Organic Le Digestif combines peppermint, ginger, orange peel and fennel for a yummy cup that helps stomach aches and sore throats. North African Mint is a lightly spiced mint green tea that’s both comforting and energizing. Organic Peppermint Amour uses only peppermint leaves from Oregon and Washington State for a classic mint tea.
Chamomile is a classic herbal tea with floral scents, perfect to relax and unwind. It’s calming and soothing. Offer this organic calming chamomile at your vegan tea party because it’s a universal favorite.
There are so many delicious fruit teas to sample and offer your guests. They’re great for those who are looking for bright or bold flavors or even if you have a little bit of a sweet tooth. I recommend trying one of my favorites, Forever Nuts, an apple-cinnamon-almond tea that’s bright pink. Banana Nut Bread tea tastes like banana bread in a cup without the calories. And Magic Potion is an intriguing blend of raspberries, blackberries, and butterfly pea flower, where the color changes from indigo to violet. It’s like a mood ring in your cup.
Shatavari Root tea
Have you heard of shatavari root before? Shatavari is used in Ayurvedic medicine for women’s reproductive health and rejuvenation. This youth blossom tea uses shatavari, hibiscus blossoms, and white tea for a cup of instant self care.
If you’d like to stick to the classics, serve up a mug of fragrant Darjeeling tea. This organic Happy Valley Darjeeling tea comes from a tea garden at the foot of the Himalayas. Grown in India’s Happy Valley, this tea comes from the first organic tea garden in India. It’s a premium black tea with fruity notes of plum and apricot and a floral finish.
Are you a fan of floral teas? Lavender is a delicious and fragrant addition to tea. This lavender buttercream tea is the perfect addition to a vegan afternoon tea party. It’s aromatic, sweet and creamy, like a slice of vanilla cake with a lavender frosting.
I was introduced to tulsi tea when I traveled to India. Tulsi, also known as holy basil, helps relieve stress and anxiety. This tulsi tranquility tea blends tulsi with rosehips, rose petals, and strawberries for a relaxing sweet treat.
Vegan Afternoon Tea Recipes
Now, let’s talk about the food! After the tea, this is the most important component of the party. These vegan afternoon tea recipes will put you on the right track to creating the best vegan / vegetarian afternoon tea. Use these recipes for an easy afternoon tea menu that anyone can create at home.
Vegan Finger Sandwiches
Looking for what to serve with tea? Tiny sandwiches immediately come to mind when I think about a vegan tea party. When it comes to making little bite-sized sandwiches, or vegan finger sandwiches, it doesn’t have to be too complicated. I suggest getting some vegan cream cheese at the grocery store (Kite Hill makes a fantastic one if you’re in the USA, Sheese is awesome if you’re in Canada or the UK). Slice up cucumbers really thin, spread on the cream cheese, and cut off the crusts. Cut into bite-sized sandwiches and you’re good to go.
If you’re looking for another sandwich or savory snack, take a look at this chickpea avocado sandwich recipe by Eat Plant-Based. Bite-sized versions of this sandwich might be a little bit messy. I suggest preparing the mixture and placing a little scoop of each on top of some sliced baguettes or baguette crisps from the grocery store.
Vegan Scones and Clotted Cream
When you think about British tea time snacks, I’m sure that scones and clotted cream come to mind first. But, what if you’re vegan? Don’t worry, there are many vegan afternoon tea recipes for scones and clotted cream. While it might be more difficult to find vegan scones and clotted cream at a traditional British afternoon tea, there are even some restaurants nowadays that serve vegan options alongside the others. Here are the best vegan afternoon tea recipes for scones, clotted cream, and preserves.
Classic Vegan Scones and Clotted Cream
Craving scones and cream? Take a look at Cinnamon & Coriander’s recipe for vegan scones and clotted cream for a plant-based take on this classic favorite. The scones are surprisingly easy to make, and the vegan clotted cream uses only a few ingredients. If you’re looking for a gluten-free scone, check out this vegan gluten-free scone recipe by Wright Things!
Vegan Strawberry Scones
Looking to take plain scones up a notch? These vegan strawberry scones by Fannetastic Food will wow your guests. They’re actually a little bit healthier too, prepared with fresh fruit and whole grains.
Vegan & Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Scones
If you’re planning for a dairy free afternoon tea, these orange cranberry scones by The Fit Cookie are perfect and free of many common allergens. They’re vegan, gluten-free, and nut free, too. They come with a fresh and fragrant orange glaze to drizzle on top of the scones.
Jams, Jellies and Preserves
When it comes to preserves, you can buy lots of vegan jams and jellies at the grocery store. For an extra special treat, try this vegan strawberry compound butter by Fried Dandelions. You can spread it on top of scones or pretty much any brunch foods. It only uses five ingredients, too!
What’s a vegan tea party without the treats? The most ideal vegan afternoon tea recipes are handheld and can be eaten in a few bites. Here are the best British tea time snacks and treats that are also 100% plant-based.
Vegan Sticky Date Puddings
Look at how adorable these mini sticky date puddings are! This is a decadent snack and precisely what to serve with tea. These vegan sticky date puddings by A Baking Journey come with a sweet dairy-free caramel sauce that’s divine.
Orange Sweet Rolls with Cranberry
Here’s another sweet treat for your next vegan tea party. This orange sweet rolls with cranberry recipe by Live Eat Learn pair perfectly with a cup of tea. They’re easy to make and will add a pop of color to your 3 tier cake rack.
Vegan Welsh Cakes
Welsh cakes originated back in the 19th century, and this vegan Welsh cake recipe by A Mummy Too swaps out the dairy ingredients for dairy-free ones. They’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, making them the perfect bite-sized British tea snack.
Vegan Almond Cake
This vegan and gluten-free almond cake recipe comes from The Banana Dairies, and you can serve it alongside any kind of tea. I suggest slicing the cake into smaller square slices that can be eaten with your hands in a couple of bites. Top the cake with almond slivers for an extra crunch, and it looks really pretty, too.
Carrot Cupcakes with Cashew Frosting
These vegan carrot cupcakes by Cass Clay Cooking come with a sweet creamy cashew frosting. You can bake regular sized cupcakes or even make mini cupcakes if you have a smaller cupcake pan. These aren’t going to be too sweet, so they go great with a sweeter cup of tea.
Vegan Mini Tarts
These adorable mini tarts in a variety of flavors are super cute and will surely spark delight at your next English afternoon tea party.
Vegan Treacle Tarts
Treacle Tarts are one of Harry Potter’s favorite foods. Now, you can make these delightful treats at home, thanks to Son Shine Kitchen’s Treacle Tarts recipe. They’re a yummy pastry with a sweet filling, and they’re the ideal bite sized treat for a vegan tea party.
Mini Strawberry Tarts
These mini strawberry tarts just scream “tea party”! Try this vegan mini strawberry tart recipe by Baked By Clo. They come served with a coconut whip, a thick strawberry sauce, and fresh fruit inside of a light pastry tartlet.
Raw Chocolate Tarts
Attachment Mummy has a decadent recipe for raw chocolate tarts. They’re perfect if you want to take it a step further and try a raw vegan afternoon tea. But, they’re an ideal addition to any British tea party as they’re perfectly rich and topped with a gooey caramel sauce.
No Bake Blueberry Tarts
Here’s another yummy no bake recipe: blueberry fruit tarts by Yuzu Bakes. These mini desserts bring a splash of color to your vegan afternoon tea treat spread. They only take about 15-20 minutes to make, saving you time to bake even more treats for this special occasion.
Raspberry Rose Vegan Mini Tarts
Here are some more adorable mini tarts that are perfect for a vegan afternoon tea party: raspberry-rose or mint vegan mini tarts by Alpha Foodie. There are two varieties listed in the recipe, so you can create two desserts in one! Whether the raspberry-rose or the mint tarts tickle your fancy, these are a beautiful and tasty addition to any English afternoon tea.
Vegan Cookies for Tea Time
Here are some vegan afternoon tea recipes for cookies. These are the perfect British tea time snacks for your party. You can also bake up a batch of these for any regular occasion where you like to nibble on a cookie with your tea.
Pecan Shortbread Cookies
Don’t you love shortbread? Vegans don’t have to miss out on this buttery treat! Recipes From a Pantry offers this pecan shortbread recipe that’s dairy-free and egg-free. They also taste like you’re biting into the autumn season with flavors of pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and orange.
Gluten-Free Almond Flour Peanut Butter Cookies
These gluten-free vegan cookies are the perfect addition to a vegan tea party. They’re almond flour peanut butter cookies by This Healthy Kitchen, and they use only six ingredients. You can whip these up in 20 minutes, leaving lots of time for more vegan afternoon tea recipes to prepare.
Vegan Gluten-Free Blueberry Lemon Cookies
These cookies are tangy, juicy, and an ideal British tea time snack. Try making this gluten-free blueberry lemon cookie recipe by Rhian’s Recipes. They’re bursting with blueberries and topped with a zesty lemon frosting. These cookies are fluffy, soft and chewy. Yum!
Walnut Vegan Biscotti
For my last treat selection, here’s the perfect snack to pair with coffee or tea. This vegan walnut biscotti by Wow, It’s Veggie?! pairs wonderfully with a warm beverage of your choice. Instead of eggs, this recipe uses aquafaba (juice from a can of chickpeas) in place of them. Even though you have to bake the biscotti twice, it’s worth the extra effort.
Looking for More Vegan Recipes?
Here are collections of vegan recipes inspired by cuisines from around the world. There are hundreds of recipes that offer lots of variety for your plant-based kitchen. If you’re a fan of recipe books, check out my best vegan books blog post!
- Vegan Italian Recipes
- Mexican Vegan Recipes
- Vegan Greek Recipes
- Vegan Japanese Recipes
- Thai Vegan Recipes
- Vegan German Recipes
- Vegan Indian Recipes