I’ve finally achieved a dearly held dream: enjoying a full vegan afternoon tea!
For years I’ve read fellow vegan blogger Jenny’s accounts of the vegan afternoon teas she’s enjoyed all over the world (okay, mostly the UK) and wistfully wished for a tea of mine own. I’ve salivated over the savories and pined over the pastries, dreaming of a day when I’d get three tiers of treats all to myself.
My chance nearly came this past spring. For my birthday, Steven’s mom very sweetly gifted me (and Steven!) passes to enjoy a special vegan afternoon tea being offered at a tea shop in Ellicott City, a nearby historic mill town. The shop doesn’t typically offer vegan snacks but was partnering with a local vegan society for a one-off event, and I was quite excited to attend. Then the owner had an emergency in the family and had to reschedule the event, understandably. Before she could reschedule, climate change took its toll: A series of horrific floods swept through Ellicott City, and the tea shop flooded and had to close, likely permanently. Sad for me, but truly tragic for the town. My afternoon tea dreams were on hold.
And then Steven and I booked a winter trip to Montréal. I’d been itching for a December trip to somewhere in Europe where we could visit Christmas markets, but it wasn’t in the cards this year. A long weekend in Montréal was a more than passable substitute, and when a search for “vegan afternoon tea in Montréal” led me to discover that sweet tea shop Le Parloir offered a vegan afternoon tea, I was sold. I made a reservation and counted down the days till three tiers of treats would be mine.
We’d booked our afternoon tea for 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday and found the tea shop about half full when we arrived. After being seated, we waited about five or so minutes before getting the menu and a run-down of how to order, and that’s pretty indicative of the overall pace at Le Parloir: relaxed! This is the time to chill out, get cozy, and while away a few hours. (We were glad to escape from the biting cold outdoors; the temperature hovered around 5˚F on that day!)
While you can order vegan a la carte options, we went straight for the full three-course vegan afternoon tea, served on (yess!) a three-tier cake stand. Priced around $25 Canadian, it was a bargain thanks to the favorable exchange rate for us Americans. (How rare it is I get to say that…!) Steven opted for a black chai blend, while I chose a jasmine green tea. Our piping hot iron pots arrived in short order, complete with hourglasses to time the steepage. Steven enjoyed his chai; my jasmine wasn’t quite as flavorful as I prefer, but still fine. We sipped our teas and did some covert people-watching while waiting for our trays. Interestingly, of the three other pairs of diners present during our meal, at least two people ordered the vegan tea, and one ordered a vegetarian spread. :)
A woman who I assume to be the shop owner delivered the vegan tray to a lady sitting behind us, explaining each dish, but we unfortunately didn’t get the full run-down when the waitress came with our cake stands a bit later. No matter; the food didn’t really require much explanation.
For the savories, we enjoyed five tidbits: a savory tart with walnut-mushroom pâté, a slice of toasty bread with beetroot hummus and radish slices, a (heart-shaped!) open-faced cucumber-cream cheese sandwich, two egg-salad finger sandwiches, and — my favorite — two tangy, mustard-y, pickle-laden sandwich triangles. I’m not sure exactly what the filling was on those latter two sandwiches; I’d guess it might’ve been chickpea-based, but it was really tasty, especially served on a soft, nutty wheat bread.
We slowly munched our way through the savories before moving on to the middle tray: the scone course! We received one towering scone apiece, and a good ‘un it was. Flaky, nice and tall, just barely sweet, with a tender crumb. Scone perfection, just about. The scones came with a small pot of blueberry compote, which I found just a tad too sweet. (A bit of cream would have helped cut through the sugar!) The tray also included a cute little pot of panna cotta, the only misstep of our entire afternoon tea. I think this dish relied on agar to thicken it — too much agar. It was basically a solid, flavorless white block — not terribly appetizing. I dutifully dug through mine to discover an absolutely perfect mango-passionfruit coulis at the bottom, a tangy-sweet sauce that paired really nicely with the toasted coconut flakes sprinkled atop the panna cotta. This would’ve been really lovely if the middle layer were a softer vanilla pudding!
At last we reached the dessert plate. Stomachs straining, we indulged in three treats: a tiny vanilla cupcake with almost painfully rich and thick frosting, a sweet little berry mousse tart topped with fresh berries, and a few candied orange jelly slices coated in rich dark chocolate. I could take or leave the cupcake, but not through any fault of its own; I’m just ambivalent about cupcakes in general these days. The other two sweets were lovely, and the dark chocolate oranges made for a wonderful last bite. I was pleased to pace myself enough to finish everything — it was a lot of food, all told!
I’m so glad we were able to make it to Le Parloir to enjoy a vegan afternoon tea in Montréal! I enjoyed the whole experience, from the kitschy-cute décor to the slow pace to the tasty little nibbles we enjoyed. And it’s fair to say that my appetite for afternoon tea will only increase now that I’ve had my first taste!
IF YOU GO
- You don’t need to make a reservation at Le Parloir, but if you’re going on the weekend, you might want to do so just in case — they sometimes host bridal and baby showers, which can take up a large portion of the tea shop. You can call or send a Facebook message to make a reservation.
- You don’t need to reserve a vegan tea in advance, but when I messaged the owner to make my reservation, she said it’s helpful for them to know in advance if multiple people will be ordering vegan teas. So you might as well specify when you make your reservation!
- Take your time! Of the three pairs of diners who were there when we arrived, two were still there when we left.