UK’s first vegan cafe with its own on-site soya dairy opens in Norwich
- Credit: Ali Hewson
A new vegan cafe with a unique on-site soya dairy is opening in the Norwich Lanes.
Tofurei is opening on Pottergate on October 26, and will be offering a range of vegan produce, all made in-house.
Proprietors Steve Lepper and Jenny McCann were inspired to open the shop after experimenting at home with making their own soya based products. With a background in education and as an analyst in the private sector, Mr Lepper took the opportunity of a redundancy to try a completely new venture. He will be running the development side of the dairy, and said the inspiration had come from micro-breweries and roasters. Me Lepper said: 'People were doing craft tofu and milks, but not as a micro-dairy.'
They will be making their own soya milk on site, which will be available in 500ml or 1 litre bottles. Customers will be able to pay a deposit for a re-usable bottle that they can bring back and swap for a freshly sealed one when they next buy the milk. The Chinese soya beans are non-GMO and organic, and will also be available to buy either hulled or whole bean. Steve and Jenny have also been working with local suppliers in Suffolk and Cambridge in growing a UK-based supply of beans.
The shop will be the first of its kind not only in Norwich, but also in the UK. Mr Lepper said: 'We think we're very complimentary to what the lanes have to offer,' adding that they were also working with local businesses - serving coffee from The Little Red Roaster, and using fresh produce from the market, and wholesale goods from Rainbow Whole Foods.
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He continued: 'An advantage of producing the milk on a micro-scale is that it gives us an opportunity to work with other people.'
This is already being put into practice and they are currently working with Darren Groom from The Little Red Roaster in developing 'barista style' soya milk to use in the shop.
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The focus is on offering plant-based foods, but it's not just for vegans. Mr Lepper said: 'We want to show that our products are tasty and home cooked too. We think it's good food that just happens to be vegan. We want to apply classic craftsmanship to our products and showcase that they can have a wider appeal.'
Jenny McCann's background is in working with animals, most recently at Wing and a Prayer Wild Bird and Owl Haven, and she says this is partly what led her to becoming a vegan.
Miss McCann said: 'For me it's about aligning my morals with my actions, and food is a big part of that. I think everyone has a responsibility to tread lightly where practically possible, and find the right balance for your lifestyle.' It's this ethos that is carrying through to the shop.
Miss McCann added that for her, one of the hardest things about switching to a vegan diet was missing the comfort of familiar tasting food. The shop will have a 'butchers style' deli counter, with plant based substitutes for meat products- including a fresh mince developed and produced on site. She admits: 'Before I became vegan I was really skeptical about the vegan diet- but it ended up sparking my passion for food.'
In the new year the shop will be hosting workshops on how to make soya milk and tofu in your kitchen at home, and there are plans for cookery classes to explore ways to use the produce.
Tofurei will be open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am-4pm.
What to look out for at Tofurei
• Apple and Caramel Cake
Miss McCann explains, 'You can't often find vegan caramel- this will definitely be a permanent fixture in the cake selection.'
• Solkiki White Hot Chocolate
A rare chance to enjoy a vegan version, this is from a cold pressed single-bean chocolate made in the UK.
• Tyne Chease
Tofurei is the only stockist in East Anglia of this smoked, cultured and matured cheese made from cashews. It looks similar to Camembert; and served individually wrapped in a traditional wooden casing it would sit proudly on any cheese board.
• One Planet Pizza
Frozen vegan pizza made by a community owned company in Trowse.
• Hand-crocheted Birds
The only non-food product sold in Tofurei, these are made by Dee, who runs Wing and a Prayer. All proceeds go back to the bird sanctuary.