Be the Change Foods: Worcester's first all-vegan cafe
Veganism has taken the UK by storm over the past decade, with 7% of the population now identifying as 'vegan'. Alongside the vast influx of vegans in the UK, the lifestyle induces a growing demand for vegan outlets on the UK high streets. Just four weeks ago, owners of Be the Change Foods, Anthony, and Zoe, opened the doors of their Worcester-based vegan cafe to shoppers after they recognised this gap in the market for an alternative-style eatery.
Anthony explains that there were two stages behind the opening of Be the Change Foods, first being that he felt personally responsible for becoming more active as a vegan by promoting the lifestyle, as opposed to simply buying vegan produce. A big influencer for Anthony and Zoe to become bigger activists was down to the sense of guilt that they felt after attending a London animal rights march in October 2017. After a couple of weeks of contemplating leaving their already well-paid jobs for a more hands-on approach to supporting the lifestyle, they entered the second stage- Realising the gap in Worcester for supporting the vegan lifestyle. Though the West Midland's vegan community is constantly growing, the main hubs for an animal-free dining experience are located in Bristol, Birmingham and other major UK cities.
Anthony continues, "We were big vegan consumers. All our holidays were based on travelling to different cities and trying all the different vegan stuff. We'd come to a place like this [Be the Change Foods] and literally not leave until the end of the day, playing about seventeen games of cards, working our way through the menu, and that was our ideal kind of holiday".
Their experiences of visiting different vegan cafes in the likes of Glasgow, Berlin, and Bristol, and recognising the unique interior designs of the outlets, gave the couple the inspiration that they needed to bring their dream Worcester cafe to life. Like many cities and towns in the UK, vegan menus/ meal options are available in many cafes and restaurants, however, the couple realised that having a hub whereby anyone, whether you are are vegan, lactose intolerant or simply intrigued by the lifestyle, can order food without worrying about animal-derived ingredients or cross-contamination dishes.
With their greaseless breakfasts and collection of plant milks available to suit everyone's taste buds, the Midlands-based business has already been receiving positive reviews from customers who prefer the cafe's homemade, clean-eating approach to cooking. Their social media has also caused a storm of applause in response to the cafe's very own 'Secret Cookie Chef' who works late shifts, providing enough dairy-free cookies to satisfy their ever-growing demand from customers.
The discussion: Is veganism right for you?
It is no secret that veganism has become prevalent in supermarket aisles over the last few years, alongside many claims that it is the perfect lifestyle choice. Reflexive asked three individuals who follow a vegan diet for their honest thoughts towards the lifestyle, allowing Reflexive readers to make the most informed decisions regarding personal ethics, eating habits and lifestyle choices.
Anthony, Vegan, Be the Change Foods Owner
"I chose to become vegan because I could. Everyone is born into a non-vegan world and we are told that we need protein from meat and calcium from dairy, so it is no one's fault if they don't know what happens in a slaughterhouse or a dairy farm. It's nobody's fault if you're not born vegan, but once you've learned these things, I believe it's your responsibility to see if you can go vegan. I didn't know if we would stick at it, or whether we'd just start wasting away, and if the latter was the case, I don't think that we would have stuck at it.
I feel like there have been health benefits from becoming vegan, but not for me during the first five years because I ate rubbish- I don't think you need to be healthy as a vegan, as long as you're not hurting anyone else, it's up to you what you do to your body.
I wouldn't say that we're martyrs for being vegan or that it is terrible what we go through because it's not. Most vegans in this country are like me, white, middle class and very privileged...we live a very comfortable life. It's not like we are being unfairly judged like how people of colour are being judged or like how people with disabilities are being judged, it's nowhere near that."
Tabetha, Vegan, Instagrammer (@veggietab)
"Around my 18th birthday, two and a half years ago, I gave up meat after watching a number of videos and documentaries about veganism - the environmental impact was what got me! I was so shocked by it so started a very slow transition and I finally went vegan this year after participating in Veganuary (where you pledge to go vegan for a month). I didn’t think I would stay vegan, however, during this time I did a virtual reality experience at my University on 'The life of a dairy cow', and the effect it had on me made me not want to go back and I’ve been trying to live plant-based ever since!
My transition has been so slow that I haven’t noticed any major changes to my health - although, I don’t get sick very often! The biggest benefit to me is actually that by restricting the foods I eat I’ve learnt to try so many new things and now I eat foods I used to hate! I used to despise mushrooms and now they’re one of my favourite foods.
There is a huge stigma attached to veganism - that it’s extreme, that vegans are annoying etc., but I think it’s important to simply lead by example and show people that it’s really not that extreme and you can eat things other than just lettuce! The only nutrient lacking in a vegan diet is the vitamin B12, simply due to modern farming and that’s super easy to supplement so it doesn’t bother me at all.
I’d like to think that times and views are changing as veganism becomes more popular and mainstream, and a lot of my friends are vegan or veggie or trying to be! There will always be someone to judge you for whatever you’re doing so I don’t let it bother me. I think the worst stereotype is that as a vegan you want to force your lifestyle on everybody! I have no desire to do so, I just hope I can inspire people to eat fewer animal products and more fruits and veggies".
Joana, Vegan, Student
"Everything started when I moved to the UK. I found myself not buying fresh meat or fish because I didn’t find them appealing or tasty, plus, they were way more expensive than in my country, Portugal. In the meantime, I became interested and wanted to know more about veganism and so I watched “What the Health”, a documentary that critiques the health impact of meat and dairy products consumption. I had been blindfolded for nineteen years. It was the scariest documentary I’d ever seen in my life. We are concerned about the effects of, for example, tobacco, but we never actually think about the effect that the food we eat has on us. For example, there is a crazy fact that “eating one egg per day is just as bad as smoking five cigarettes per day for reducing your life expectancy”. I wish everyone could take some time to have a look at this as there are so many misconceptions about vegan diets that need to be tackled.
Since I became vegan, I can say that my health, mood and lifestyle have changed completely. I’ve more energy, which means that I am not reliant on two to three cups of coffee a day. I also lost weight and some stretch marks on my body have disappeared. I didn't believe it myself until I switched diets. Fortunately, consuming plant-based products will improve our lives as well as providing us with all the nutrients for good health, growth, and development, and also ensuring the future of the environment.
Being vegan often means getting bombed by questions. Don't get me wrong, I love to explain and talk about what veganism is and sometimes these questions are actually from well-meaning individuals who are interested in the vegan lifestyle. However, some others just want to get on our nerves. We are asked hypothetical questions like "Imagine you are on a desert island, would you eat animals?" or "What about plants? They have feelings too!". Saying that we won’t have enough protein or that meat tastes better than vegetables are excuses that should already be gone. Do they value taste over life? We require more than a sensory pleasure to morally justify an action.
I'm not judged for being vegan, people just don't know what it is. Unfortunately, it's not something that is commonly spoken about. If I'm back home, in Portugal, people find it very weird. Especially in my area, as it's the nation's richest agricultural land but also the one that produces most of the animals used in the Portuguese style of bullfighting. In the UK it is completely different. Even the smallest town has a coffee shop with a vegan alternative. I must confess the worst thing that usually happens to me is when someone says that vegans are unhealthy as "we are like rabbits because we only eat lettuce". This is just one of a few stereotypes we have."
If you're interested in finding out more about Veganism and Veganuary, visit: https://veganuary.com/