Afternoon tea

There’s an old tradition that’s made a very welcome come back in the last few years – Afternoon Tea. And what’s not to like? Little sandwiches, a lovely selection of delicious cakes all washed down with dainty cups of freshly brewed tea. Perfect, although if you have food intolerances, follow a restricted diet or have chosen to eat plant-based it can become a little more challenging!

Fortunately, there are an increasing number of establishments that are now offering gluten free or vegan options. Not always both though! If you eat egg-free or dairy-free, you should be covered.  Although be prepared to look at your friends plates and feel just a little left out. In my experience, a place may offer a ‘free from’ option, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good option, or even exists!  And I say that from bitter experience!

For a birthday treat, I arranged a day out in London for my husband. I wanted to include afternoon tea, and so researched options. I had booked a room at a very well known and expensive hotel (thank goodness for Tesco club card vouchers!) and was pleased to see they also offered afternoon tea that included ‘free from’ options. It seemed perfect. The tea booking was not arranged through the hotel but via an on-line booking service. I completed the form, detailed our dietary restrictions and asked for them to confirm that they could accommodate them (I always give places an option to say they can’t). Even after receiving confirmation that all was well, I emailed another 2 times just to make sure.

You’ve probably guessed that all was not well! Rather than going into all the tawdry details, lets just say that being ignored for the first 30 minutes, being served a plate of salty lettuce as a savoury option and finally being given a dry vegan chocolate brownie (which I think someone ran to the shop next door for) with a selection of fruit was not quite what I had in mind for a relaxing birthday celebration. Especially for someone who doesn’t like to make a fuss! We did get a free bottle of champagne, which was the highlight of the whole saga.

The excuse was they hadn’t received any communication from their Afternoon Tea booking service. Which may well have been true, but did little to placate my simmering ire!

I decided to try another celebratory afternoon a few weeks after the first disappointing experience. This time it was for my mum’s birthday and more local to home.  Scarred by the London debacle, I made sure they didn’t use an online booking service and managed to do something rare – I phoned them up and had a chat about whether they could serve me a tea. And they could. And it was awesome! They provided me with a great alternative to the normal sandwich, had a good selection of cake and even though they still added fruit, I didn’t mind as a) I actually like fruit and b) they made some special plant-based fruit jellies that were just amazing. You couldn’t have two more different experiences.

So the moral of the story is if you want to go out for Afternoon Tea but you have dietary limitations, do your research, don’t use an on-line booking service and actually make sure in person that they can serve you the full tea experience. That way everyone has a good time.

If you can’t find somewhere that meets your needs, then why not make your own?  This week (12th-18th August) is Afternoon Tea Week, so to celebrate, here’s my suggestions for creating your own super-tasty afternoon tea.

Savoury options:

Savoury scones go down well and can be easily made gluten-free if needed. There’s two options on the blog – both freeze well – pumpkin and a cheese-like savoury scone.

Sandwiches can be adapted as long as you have the right bread for you, be it whole-meal, sourdough, gluten-free, grain-free. Or even use a wrap if bread is not your thing. There are many delicious options, my three favourites are:

Cucumber and dill on toasted sourdough bread

Peanut butter, banana and alfalfa sandwiches

Avocado, rocket and chopped sun-dried tomatoes with dairy-free pesto wraps.

Sweet options:

Scones, but sweet ones, are always good! Here’s an old blog post with a reliable scone recipe . They’re best with lashings of jam; if you want to cut down on refined sugar, then why not serve them with this easy and healthy chia jam.

Cake is always the best part of afternoon tea for me. There are so many to try. One of my favourites is lemon drizzle cake; you can cut it into delicate squares if you’re feeling fancy! Raspberries are in season at the moment, so this raspberry and almond cake is perfect for this time of year, as well as super tasty. These deliciously rich raw chocolate brownie bites will complement any cake stand and last in the fridge for a week (just in case you can’t eat them all in one sitting!). If you enjoy a muffin, these banana and blueberry muffins hit the spot but are also super healthy, giving you a good excuse to eat at least one. Finally, if you want a little nibble, I suggest these deliciously moreish raw carrot cake balls. Yum!

Of course, there are many other cakes and sweet treats on the blog to choose from if none of these take your fancy; all super tasty ways to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week. What will you make this weekend?

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