June 2nd, 2005
The Tea Party Club
Trends in Tea Ware
Tea is back and becoming more stylish every day. You see it when you go to the local mall and there are little tea shops that
sell loose tea, tea ware and novelty tea beverages for the consumer. Coffee is not gone, but tea is making a strong
comeback in the community.
You may fondly remember having tea served by your grandmother or mother when friends or relatives came to visit. After
years of neglect, serving tea has once again become very fashionable and the new trends in tea ware are endless.
The types, styles, sizes and names of tea ware are varied. The little individual teapot that provides a single serving or the
large pot that you make to share with a friend that stopped over is now common. Tea ware is now prominently displayed in
many retail stores and you can choose from an endless selection of items.
You can choose from complete matching tea services that include the teapot, cups and saucers, cream and sugar
containers, and a tray. Add extras such as dessert plates, trays, tea strainers and caddies, infusers, tea cozies, pedestal
cake stands, linens, teaspoons, heavy mugs or other wonderful matching accessories to help complete your tea service. All
of these items can be found at www.TheTeapotShoppe.com
Using tea ware does not only have to be for formal occasions. Your tea ware was made to be used and enjoyed for many
years. So, do not lock it up for special occasions—enjoy it now and every day.
How to Choose a Tea Set
You made the decision and commitment to host a tea party. You have planned the event, the invitations have been
sent out and the food has been ordered. Now, you are wondering how to serve your tea and what you actually
need in the way of a tea set, tea service, or tea party accessories.
Start with a little product research. Did you know that silver and stainless steel are the only two metals that will not
taint the flavor of tea? And, did you know that aluminum and enamel tea kettles are good for boiling water but not
for brewing tea? Also, a ceramic tea pot is best for holding heat and keeping the tea warm.
With so many decisions to make, where do you start? Do you want to purchase your own tea set to use for your
tea party and if so, how large should it be? Or, do you want to rent a tea service from a local company?
Your tea set should include a tea pot, strainer and stand, hot water pot, waste bowl, sugar bowl, creamer, tongs and
a tray. You may also want to add enough dessert plates for all of your guests. These do not have to be all of the
same pattern. English tradition calls for mixing a variety of floral patterns to add visual interest. You should also
use a tea pot that is large enough to pour each guest one cup of tea, but one that is not too heavy to lift. The
options are wide and varied and there are many different choices available.
With so much to think about on how to choose a tea set, you should also consider another factor. Do you want to
be able to use your tea set for small and informal family gatherings or for just a quiet rainy afternoon when you are
alone with a book? Many tea sets include several sizes of teapots from 1 or 2 cup to 9 cups. Also available are
teapots for one. These are usually stackable with the teapot setting on top of the cup and saucer. For a smaller
gathering, consider having a teapot for one available for each guest. Perhaps set one at each place setting. Your
guests will love it!
Tea Party China and Accessories
Trends come and go, but tea has seen a steady increase in popularity in the U.S. since the 1990's. Along with this
trend, comes new interest in tea ware and tea related items. Teapots come in all shapes and sizes and materials
range from ceramic, porcelain, iron, and bone china. Trendy art reflects this popularity by featuring abstract tea
cups and saucers or teapots. Many tea lovers believe that tea tastes better from a porcelain teapot. You will also
need to decide on the size of the teapot. A two-cup teapot is a perfect size for serving each person their own
favorite tea. A four cup teapot easily serves two to four people the same type of tea. Selecting a variety of sizes
ensures that you will have the right teapot for any occasion and they are fun to collect, too.
Many tearooms or tea bars will also section off a part of the store for selling fruity teas or healthy blends of
oolong or green tea. Also popular now are electric tea brewers, french tea presses, iced tea makers, mesh balls,
flavored sugar cubes, sugar sticks, and tea scented candles.
If you like to read about food, tea party china, and table settings for tea parties, there is even a magazine dedicated
to this theme called "Tea Time", which is available in many fine groceries and is published bi-monthly.
...where tea enthusiasts share their favorite teaware, tea party
themes, recipes, and more.
Displaying porcelain or bone china teapots, dessert plates and
other accessories is part of the unique charm of serving tea and
planning tea parties. Special tea party accessories such as sugar
tongs, drip catchers, teabag holders, and linens not only enhance
the look of the tea table, but also serve practical purposes that
enable us to serve tea in a special way.
Place cards add intimate elegance to the properly set tea table. They graciously direct guests to their seat and should
be beautiful and imaginative. A small spray of flowers with a placecard nestled on top is an easy way to present the place
card. Assorted antique broaches can be purchased at a flea market and fastened to the napkin for a stunning individualized
look. A miniature tea cup can also hold a placecard or you can purchase any number of placecard holders offered by online
tea ware retailers.
For easily accessible cream, a miniature teapot filled with cream can be set at each place setting. In addition, a miniature
tea cup can be filled with sugar and placed alongside the cream. Your guests will love these individualized servers. Mix and
match floral patterns to create a truly English tea setting.
If you’re worried about tea turning cold, use tea warmers that will keep tea hot for several hours. Tea warmers are available
in a variety of finishes; gold, silver, or antique white to match any teapot. Simply add a tea light to your warmer and place a
bone china or porcelain teapot on top of the warmer. The tea will stay hot for three to four hours.
Utilize vertical space and create visual interest by using two-tiered or three-tiered servers. Available in a variety of finishes,
tiered servers can elegantly display scones, cupcakes, fruit, and other sweet or savory treats. Make the display colorful with
sprigs of parsley and miniature roses tucked between the food.
Lacy tea time napkins call for a napkin ring to complete a sophisticated table-scape. There are many varieties of napkin
rings from silver to porcelain to hand-made. But, a white porcelain napkin ring is the most versatile to use for many types of
occasions. They can be used with all colors and textures of napkins or a single rose bloom can be added to dress up the
Sugar and Honey Spoons
Make your table sparkle with silver or gold utensils such as sugar and honey spoons. Sugar spoons can be purchased new
or found at antique stores. A vintage silver piece adds character and enthusiastic appeal to your table. Honey spoons are
dainty and practical for adding honey to tea. A gentle bend in the spoons neck allows you to gently rest the spoon on the side
of the tea cup while the honey drips into the tea. Petit four servers and lemon forks are also pretty additions to your serving
With elegant tea party accessories, you can assemble a table-scape that will warm your soul and create a sophisticated
setting that will dazzle your guests.
Party Accessories…The Finishing Touch
Add proper elegance to your next tea party with stunning tea party accessories. Silver sugar tongs are beautiful,
functional, and the only acceptable way to handle sugar cubes at a tea party. Sugar tongs are available in sterling,
silver-plate and gold-plate. They usually feature delicate ornamentation and are becoming popular wedding gifts.
Heirloom sugar tongs are still available and can sometimes be found in antique stores.
The Teapot Story
You have seen a teapot with four tea cups. Have you ever seen a teacup with four teapots? so is supposed to run
a Chinese proverb in support of polygamy. The teapot is, at any rate, the undisputed lord of the tea table and it is
with the teapot that this chapter must begin, even though, historically, it should start with teacups, since they were
the first tea ware to be made, centuries before teapots were evolved.
From the Ch’a Ching written by Lu Yu about 800 A.D. and from the first records brought back by European
travelers, it is clear that the early Chinese way of making tea needed no teapot. Either the tea was boiled in an iron
kettle, or it was pulverized and then infused in the teacup or bowl. The first teapots of which positive records
exist are those of Yi-Hsing, dating from about 1500 A.D. Long before that date, the Chinese made earthenware
spouted ewers, which look rather like teapots, but these were almost certainly used for wine. It was from them,
however, that the inspiration for teapots must have come.
It is, then, with Yi-Hsing, that the teapot story begins. Yi-Hsing, near Shanghai, is famous for its clays and the
unglazed red or brown stoneware teapots whih were made from them were supposed – possibly because of their
heat-resistant qualities to give tea the best flavor. At any rate, Yi-Hsing teapots became popular all over China and
were exported in large quantities to Japan. They were of small size, not, as has often been suggested, because of
the high cost of tea, but so that each person should have a pot to himself. Their shapes were very varied. When
simple, their lines were of great beauty, but a perverted fancy also caused them to be made in the weirdest
assortment of shapes such as flowers, tortoises, wheels, drums, shells, eggs, pumpkins, elephant trunks, Buddhist
priest’s hats and so on.
The tea cargoes that began to reach Europe from 1610 onwards brought not only tea, but Yi-Hsing teapots in
which to brew it. It was to Holland that the cargoes came and Holland already had a flourishing ceramic industry
at Delft, which gave its name to earthenware coated with a glaze made opaque by adding tin oxide. But the Dutch
soon found that their Delft ware, lacking heat resistant properties, was unsuited to teapots. To meet the demand
for utensils for the new drink, the Dutch potters copied the imported Yi-Hsing, and by 1670 were producing
small, unglazed, red earthenware teapots. These were serviceable, if by no means equal in substance or finish to
In England, the first tea ware must also have been imported but there exists an English silver teapot dated 1670. It
looks exactly like a coffee pot and only from the inscription on its side is its purpose known. This inscription
reads, “This silver tea Pott was presented to ye Comtee of ye East India Company by ye Honoe George Lord
Berkeley of Berkeley Castle A member of that Honourable and worthy Society and a try Hearty Louer of them
1670. A few other silver teapots made before 1700 have survived. They are smaller and of a more orthodox
teapot shape. One belonged to Archbishop Sharp of St. Andrews shoes Arms appear on it. It is pear shaped and
over six inches high. It may well have been given to the Archbishop by King Charles II to whom he was private
chaplain. This teapot’s date cannot be later than 1670, when the Archbishop was assassinated.
Meantime, the potters in England were starting to manufacture their own teapots. Amongst the earliest were the
Dutch brothers John and Philip Elers, who probably came to England with William III in 1688. They started in
Fulham making unglazed, red earthenware teapots in imitation of Yi-Hsing, but by 1693 they had removed to
Staffordshire because of the clays there. Celia Fiennes, riding round Staffordshire in 1698, reported in her diary
how she went “to see the making of fine teapots, cups and saucers of the fine red earth, in imitation and as
curious as that which comes from China’.
Red teapots of the Elers type went on being made in Staffordshire for another fifty years, but in the early part of
the eighteenth century, silver reigned supreme as material for the teapot. The age of Anne introduced some of the
finest silver-ware ever made in England and it was tea that inspired it. In place of elaborate Carolean candelabra,
cups and toilet sets, the silver craftsman now found his most profitable theme in lovely small pear-shaped teapots,
in cream jugs and sugar bowls and in massive tea kettles. A little later, globular and melon-shaped silver teapots
were also made.
Although pottery was thus temporarily eclipsed by silver, the first half of the eighteenth century saw the
development in Staffordshire of two new types of earthenware teapots. One was the lead-glaze ware associated
with the names of John Astbury and Thomas Whieldon, known for its marbled appearance, made by using clays
of different colors. The other was the famous salt-glaze, in which the glaze, instead of being added as a coating
to the body was produced by throwing salt into the kiln at the climax of the firing. The early salt-glaze teapots
were cast in moulds with ornamented reliefs. The moulds were of the wildest range of shapes: square, hexagonal
and octagonal, formed like camels, bears and other beasts and birds, like houses and ships, hearts and seashells.
About 1745, the potters began enamelling salt-glaze teapots in superbly rich color schemes. But the life of salt-
glaze was short. In 1753, Whieldon took into partnership Josiah Wedgwood, who revolutionized the Staffordshire
industry. The new firm was soon producing black basalt and jasper ware, the latter, a fine stoneware stained in
different colors and usually ornamented with applied cameo reliefs in white. Flaxman and other well-known
artists were engaged to produce the designs. Early in the 1760s, Wedgwood began to manufacture his famous
Queen’s ware (called after George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte). It was cream colored earthenware, smooth of
surface, resistant to heat and mass produced. The new Wedgwood ware swept all before it. Other factories in
Staffordshire and in Leeds were soon making similar cream colored ware of good quality, and in modified form, it
still remains the world’s standard tea ware.
Long before the advent of tea, the dream of the European potter had been to produce Chinese porcelain. True
Chinese porcelain is composed of a mixture of two ingredients, infusible kaolin, or china-clay and fusible petuntse
or china stone. Soft paste porcelain is an artificial product, the body consisting of white clay with a frit of
powdered glass, bone ash and other substances. Soft paste is fired at a much lower temperature than hard paste.
The importation of tea from China gave a new impetus to the quest for the secret of porcelain, that other great
product of China. Before the end of the seventeenth century, the potters of St. Cloud in France had evolved a
substitute known as soft paste porcelain. Then, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the genius of Bottger
discovered the Chinese secret of the mixture of the refractory an defusible clays. Bottger worked at Dresden
under the patronage of Augustus the Strong, King of Saxony. Using Nuremberg red earth, Bottger’s first success
was to reproduce Yi-Hsing stoneware. His royal patron was invited to the opening of the kiln, which had been
kept burning for five days and nights. The first product taken our and presented to Augustus was a fine red
teapot. Large numbers of the stoneware teapots were made by Bottger at the Meissen factory, but his real object,
to make true Chinese porcelain, was not yet attained. It was not long delayed. By 1713, only three years after the
red stoneware had gone into production, hard paste porcelain from the Meissen factory was being sold at the
Leipzig fair. Teapots, and later complete tea sets, formed an important part of the early Meissen output and
Meissen was the first to introduce the breakfast set for one or two people with its matching porcelain tray. The
smooth white surface for the Meissen ware also provided full scope for decoration by individual painting in all the
rich variety which characterized both hard and soft eighteenth- century porcelain.