The Ultimate Vegan Summer
Maria Slough meets the people behind the emerging brands that can help you to have the perfect summer
As the longer days of warmer weather stretch out before us, I decided to look for some summer inspiration for entertaining and self-care. What I found was creativity in abundance from a handful of groundbreaking companies in a plentiful vegan marketplace.
Natural yoga mats
I was determined to come out of lockdown and into the summer with improved fitness but finding the perfect vegan yoga mat was surprisingly hard.
After a lot of false starts, I found Zen Bear (zenbear.co.uk) with a stunning selection of uplifting bright designs.
Their Nila mat, like all their mats, has a vegan suede top and at 6mm thickness gives your body an all over support - it cocoons you as you relax into your routine.
As a beginner, this has been a game changer for my feet and wrists. \"Unlike PVC yoga mats or rubber-top mats, which contain nasty chemicals, the Zen Bear mats are natural, made entirely
from natural tree rubber from the Para Rubber Tree,\" founder Emma explains as we chat on the phone. \"
Natural rubber is an ecologically sustainable crop that actually contributes to the maintenance of the global carbon balance in the atmosphere.
The oozy latex material extracted from the trees is strained, diluted with water, treated, and rolled into yoga mats using water-based dyes.
Using sustainable farming, these non- Amazonian trees are only partially tapped by a small incision on the tree's outer surface, which is used for a period of time, and then allowed to heal naturally.\"
\"In 2016, after watching some eyeopening documentaries, my partner Kyle and I decided to transition to a plant-based lifestyle, and we felt the benefits so soon. For us, it was only natural that the journey became a part of the company too.\"
After finding the ideal yoga mat, next came the search for a vegan probiotic. In 2014, husband and wife team Steven Hegarty and Janett Lozano founded Biomel (biomel.life).
\"We started the company out of the desire to do something healthier and more meaningful. We saw a clear gap in the market for vegan probiotics and we were inspired with the opportunity to show the world that plant-based products can be exciting and delicious.
Our plant-based probiotic drinks are made using a blend of vitamins, minerals and billions of live active cultures and one serving of the complete health powder gives you 50 per cent recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamins B6, B12, D and calcium.
We strive to make our vegan products better than the non-vegan alternatives, because your gut interacts with every aspect of your health and wellbeing, impacting your digestive health, immune system and mood.\"
The yummy Vanilla Complete Gut has become a part of my daily routine and always leaves me wanting more.
\"So, with my body nourished from the inside out, I turned my eye to summer entertaining\"
So, with my body nourished from the inside out, I turned my eye to summer entertaining - starting with great food. Enter brother and sister Mike and Beth Moore of London-based Honestly Tasty (honestlytasty.co.uk).
In 2016, after watching Cowspiracy Mike gave up meat and went vegan two years later. \"I was quite shocked to find that there wasn't a cheese, that to me, stacked up, so I decided to make my own.\"
Working in corporate banking, with a Masters in spacecraft engineering, Mike went on a vegan cheese-making course in Berlin in March 2018. After much research he started to combine different techniques and ingredients to achieve the 'melt' on the cheeses.
In September that year, their blue cheese Veganzola was born. \"It was how I remember blue cheese tasting. In November 2018, I left the bank, stripped out a room in my Grandmother's house, got it food safety approved and launched the business.
For six months we created new recipes and started selling. My sister Beth joined Honestly Tasty in January 2020. We moved into bigger premises and the team is now 20 strong.\"
The Herbivoursin is creamy and light, melting on the tongue into a decadent taste explosion while the Shamembert has a gentle rind that gives way to velvety richness with a subtle bitterness. The range is definitely a game-changer for the vegan cheese market.
\"If we can remove that need for people to buy dairy-based cheese,\" Mike told me, \"that is how we will impact animal welfare on a large scale and that is our goal.\"
Moving South West in my search, I met mother and son team Deb and Oz of Go Wild Preserves (gowildpreserves.co.uk). Oz was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged two, caused by Neurofibromatosis (Nerve Tumours) which caused some disabilities, including visual impairment.
The position of the tumour impacted his appetite and from an early age he loved experimenting with intense flavours. With an inherent flair for cooking Oz has found a lifestyle that plays to all his strengths in an environment that he can manage, creating slow food with care and attention.
All but one of their products is vegan (honey is present in the curried rhubarb) and they are always happy to take enquiries about their ingredients. Oz told me: \"We spent our childhoods roaming the Welsh Marches that surrounded our home.
We claimed kingdoms in the woods and named them, returning day after day to pick the treasures we found there.
Helped by our goat Dill, we would take the picnic in panniers to the blackberry patch at the edge of the wood and we returned home to help turn these jewels into edible feasts.
Preserving our produce as the seasons unfolded was part of the rhythm. We have spent the last few years turning a way of life into a business which has enabled us to share our products with others and care of our environment is at the heart of our business.\"
My favourite is the strawberry and balsamic jam. Whole strawberries sit provocatively in a generously filled jar, and the freshness of the ingredients and care in the artisan process is translated into the tasting experience as the sweetness dissolves on your tongue.
With savoury sauces and chutneys on offer, you are guaranteed to find what you need for any perfect summer feast at Go Wild Preserves.
So, to my final find - sparkling tea courtesy of The Copenhagen Tea Company (sparklingtea.co) and available from greatwine.co.uk.
In slender neck bottles with a generously ample base the perfectly pitched popping sound of the cork tells you that you are in for a luxury treat.
Jacob Kocemba, founder of Copenhagen Sparkling Tea, explained to me in a rich accent that sparkling tea is a whole new category in the marketplace and advises not to compare it with anything you have drunk before.
I was tasting Grøn as we talked on Zoom, which is made up of seven teas including assam, lemongrass, green Darjeeling and lemon tea that make up a refreshing delicate herbal taste experience.
Jacob's background as a high-end sommelier in Europe is where this all started. \"In 2008, I had to make a wine pairing with a dessert of wild fresh French strawberries, but of the 1,700 wines I had in the cellar, not one matched.
So, I started working with tea and extracting the flavours to put into my base beverage. It was a huge hit with the guests. Then, I added CO2 in the next brew and produced sparkling tea for five years with my brother.
Finally, in 2017 Copenhagen Sparkling Tea was born when I formed a partnership with Bo Hansen, the co-founder, and we created the organic company. We made a conscious decision to be fully vegan in 2019 and even our cleaning process is vegan-proof.\"
Jacob talked with passion about the process. \"I extract flavours from 6-15 different teas over temperatures from 5-65 degrees, using white tea to soften the palette, black tea to give the flavour strength and backbone and green tea to give depth and umami flavours and then I build the aroma profiles.
We extract the flavours from the teas and we use it as a blend just as you use different grapes to blend wines.
The nonalcoholic versions LYSERØD and BLÅ have 0.0 of alcohol which means it has never been de-alcoholised and this is a huge advantage for those taking medicine or who do not take alcohol for religious reasons.\"
I have to admit to tasting them all in the name of research and every bottle became my favourite. As you pour, bubbles cascade vertically as the glass frosts.
The VINTER, a seasonal special from November to March, is amber in colour with warming undertones of sweetness that caress the tongue.
Both Pink offerings are decadently dry with a blessing of hibiscus and whichever you try from this innovative alchemist they are guaranteed to turn any summer gathering into an exceptional occasion.