As soon as I booked my flight to London six years ago, I sat down and made a to-do list. I had to visit the Tower of London, see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace and watch the fireworks across the River Thames on New Year’s Eve.
But first on my list? I had to try a very proper, very British afternoon tea.
Since switching to a plant-based diet, I’ve frequently been disappointed with the vegan afternoon tea options at even the swankiest London hotels. I always sit down with high hopes, only to be served a fruit salad and (if I’m lucky!) a dry, crumbly scone.
Until this past weekend, I had resigned myself to the fact that my afternoon tea days were over.
Essex isn’t usually the first place that springs to mind when it comes to vegan options, but when the lovely Caroline and Rose at Sweet Rose Cakery invited me to try their new cruelty-free afternoon tea I jumped at the chance. Their cakes are well-known as the best in Essex, so I had high hopes for this meal!
I decided to take the opportunity to spend some time with my Grandma, as I knew she’d love a chat over a cup of tea. We took the train through the pretty English countryside and arrived at the sweetest little cakery in the heart of Upminster.
The staff greeted us with a smile, and I instantly felt at home. There’s something about family-run cafes that create such a warm, inviting atmosphere. The decor lent a hand to the friendly vibe, with photographs on the walls and fairy lights twinkling overhead.
We were sat down and offered drinks, which were much-needed after a walk in the sun. Then came the main event – the vegan food!
The bottom tier of the tea stand contained a selection of dainty sandwiches including cheese and pickle, hummus and vegetable and of course the classic cream cheese with cucumber – all vegan, of course!
I was so impressed with the attention to detail – the flavours were exactly what you would expect to see in a traditional afternoon tea. Not a boring salad sandwich in sight!
I have to admit, the scone stole the show. Served with a little pot of jam and the most authentic vegan clotted cream I’ve ever tasted, it was by far the highlight of the meal.
During my conversation with Caroline I learned that she had been hesitant to bring out a vegan afternoon tea until she had perfected the scone. After all, in her words: “You can’t have tea without a scone!” I can safely say that she has succeeded, and I’m now going to need a lifetime supply to satisfy me.
Cakes are Caroline’s speciality, so I was excited to spot a cupcake with the cutest swirl of vegan buttercream sitting on my plate. And seriously, the hype around her baking is real.
I never thought I’d use this word, but it was so moist. There, I said it. I’m officially old.
If you want to win my heart, just give me a vegan cupcake. Better yet, give me a vegan cupcake from Sweet Rose Cakery!
I’ve been attempting to educate my Grandma on veganism throughout the years, but I have a feeling that she still thinks I live on fruit and vegetables! It was a great opportunity to show her that vegan food can be delicious and fun, and I watched as she tentatively tried a bite of cheese and nibbled at the scone.
Her verdict? Well, you can see for yourself!
Yes, that is an adorable banana and strawberry skewer. Served with creamy melted chocolate, of course!
We left with full tummies and happy hearts – I rarely get the chance to visit my Grandma, and this was the perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon.
As I walked outside I spotted the ‘Dog Stop’ outside the cafe with a bowl of fresh water thoughtfully placed, and instantly wished I’d brought Fuji-chan! While dogs aren’t allowed inside, the cakery has outdoor seating and I know he would have loved it. He was waiting for me when I arrived back in London, as sweet as ever.
If afternoon tea isn’t your thing, Sweet Rose Cakery have a selection of vegan options including avocado on toast, smoothies, sandwiches and salads. Their menu also boasts a range of vegan cakes and even a sundae! I’m already planning my next visit…
Sweet Rose Cakery is just a five minute walk away from Upminster station, at 162 St. Marys Lane, Upminster RM14 3BS. Even if you don’t live in Essex, I highly recommend making the trip – how can you say no to a scenic train journey and delicious vegan food?
Posh London hotels, take note – this is how you do a vegan afternoon tea.