Vegan Afternoon Tea Guide

Here is your guide to a perfect vegan afternoon tea worth getting excited over! From a host of vegetarian tea sandwich ideas to the dairy free clotted cream of your dreams – and everything in between – we’ll share some basics about afternoon tea and walk you through how to veganize each tier on the tray. We have you covered like a tea cozy with this Vegan Afternoon Tea Guide!

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In this house, we’re tea people. 

In fact, afternoon tea has become a kind of tradition for us in the past few years.

It’s a nice break from the workday to sit down and connect over a pot of tea & some quick bites.

It’s a tradition we both grew up with, thanks to our Irish tea-loving grandmothers and one we really enjoy to this day.

Our typical tea is not what would be considered a proper afternoon tea, but lately, we’ve been having fun experimenting with more traditional recipes & practices, so we decided to do a round-up with our favorite vegan recipes for a (mostly) proper afternoon tea!

But first, let’s learn a little about afternoon tea in general, so you can dazzle your friends with your knowledge while sipping a cuppa.

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Overhead shot of a small china plate with delicate purple flowers painted on it topped with a bluberry scone sliced in half and topped with vegan clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Afternoon Tea FAQ

What is afternoon tea? Afternoon tea is an English tradition that goes back to the 1800s. It focuses on finger foods served on a 3-tier stand with a large pot of hot tea served in the mid-afternoon. It’s easy to make a vegetarian or vegan afternoon tea with a few easy swaps!

What are the 3 main foods served at afternoon tea? Traditional afternoon tea is served on a 3 tiered stand with savory foods and tea sandwiches on the bottom, scones with jam and clotted cream in the middle, and small sweets and desserts on the top tier. Later in this article, we’re going to go into how to veganize each of these traditional tiers!

Is all tea vegan? Yes, tea itself is usually made from entirely vegan and plant-based materials. However, we’ve noticed a small number of tea brands offering tea bag varieties that include honey which is not vegan. Just double-check the ingredients – especially if the tea variety has “honey” on the label. If you prefer your tea with milk and sweetener, we suggest a plain oat or soy milk and sugar or agave instead of honey.

What is the difference between high tea and afternoon tea? This is a common misconception (especially for us Americans!). While the fancy tea parties we throw here in the US are often mislabeled as high tea, they are usually more akin to afternoon tea. Afternoon tea was established as an upper class thing, a light meal to fill the time between lunch and when dinner was served around 8PM. High tea, however, was a much more substantial meal served in working-class homes after the work day and more closely resembled a late supper.

Where to Find Tea Party Supplies

TEAPOTS, COZIES, AND TIER-TRAYS, OH MY! Where do I find all this fancy stuff?

You CAN search the internet if you want, and I’m sure you’ll find what you need; but honestly, I love to search the thrift stores, flea markets, and local yard sales for old teapots, tea boxes, tea trays, tea-etc. There’s always that thrill of possible found treasure when you see a potential possibility in that back corner of the thrift store, just be sure to look for any cracks, etc. Plus, a good thrift store find makes for a great tea party story!

Vegan Afternoon Tea Recipes and Ideas

Head-on shot of vegan tuna finger sandwiches on the bottom tier of a 3-tier tea tray.

Vegan Afternoon Tea Sandwiches and Savories

Start on the bottom tier of your 3-tier tray with some tea sandwiches and savory bits. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Overhead shot of a 3-tier tea tray with finger sandwiches on the bottom, blueberry scones and vegan clotted cream in the middle, and dairy free cheese straws on top. The focus is on the scones and clotted cream. There is a cup of hot tea in the background.

Vegan Scones and Clotted Cream

This is by far my FAVORITE tier on the tray! I discovered my love for clotted cream when my Nana started taking me to afternoon tea at a local shop as a kid. Now, our vegan recreation of that classic dish is so spot-on, it totally takes me back to those days! We like to serve it with our blueberry scones (or any vegan scone will do!) and strawberry jam.

Overhead photo of a 3-tier tea tray with finger sandwiches on the bottom, blueberry scones and vegan clotted cream in the middle, and dairy free cheese straws on top. There is a cup of black tea in the background.

Vegan Tea Party Sweets

This is the one afternoon tea rule we often break, simply because we think our vegan cheese straws look adorable atop the 3-tier tray. But, if you want to keep tradition alive (or if the sweets are your favorite part), here are a few recipes to try:

Vegan Tea Party Beverage Options

Obviously, you’ll want to serve one or several pots of tea at your vegan tea party. If you have a substantial number of guests, you’ll want to provide an assortment of teas like:

  • Black Teas: Irish or English Breakfast (*NOTE – Breakfast teas have a higher caffeine content); Earl or Lady Grey; Chai can also be a nice option depending on your food offerings. Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Assam teas are all good afternoon teas as well.
  • Herbal or Green Teas: These are a great option for those who like to avoid caffeine in the afternoon. Try to offer a variety of flavors.
  • Iced Tea: This can be a good option if you’re throwing an afternoon tea in the summer! Mix it up with a variety of fresh-brewed iced teas.
Head-on shot of two bottles of one - one is a sparkling rose from Domaine Bousquet. The other is a dry riesling from Villa Wolf. There is a glass next to each bottle filled with the wine. In the background, it's set up for an afternoon tea with a 3-tier tray and tea pot.

Afternoon Tea and Vegan Wine Pairings

If you’re throwing a tea party, you may want to include some wine options in addition to tea. We recommend something bright and fruit-forward that will vibe with everything on the menu. 

Two of our favorite options are:

  • Sparkling Rose – We love the Brut Sparkling Rose from Domaine Bousquet. It’s a delicious blend of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes produced using classic French wine-making techniques in Argentina. It’s organic, affordable (under $15 a bottle!), and a total crowd-pleaser. They even put “vegan friendly” right there on their label!
  • German Riesling – The Dry Riesling from Villa Wolf gets our vote or anything from the Dr. Loosen family of wines. Whether you choose a slightly sweeter variety or a dry one, this aromatic white wine is low-alcohol and fresh AF. It’s a great pairing for everything on your afternoon tea menu, like a refreshing burst of lemonade between bites. 

Do you ever do afternoon tea? Have a question we didn’t answer or something to add? Leave a comment and let us know!

And don’t forget to tag @theplantpowercouple on Instagram with your vegan afternoon tea photos!

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