During the Han Dynasty 206 – 220BC hot water was infused with tea leaves, crushed with spices such as ginger and orange for additional flavour and perceived beneficial properties. This ‘tea’ was drunk from multi functional bowls.
Many examples of tea sets dating back to the Ming Dynasty 1368 – 1644AD have been found, yet because of the exorbitant price of tea, European tea sets were a much later development and were made in smaller forms.
Tea became more readily available in Europe in the late 1600’s and it is believed the Dutch were the first people to add milk to the drink. During this period, the French Marquise de Sévigné advocated the use of a creamer, and by the early 1700’s sugar baskets (later to become sugar bowls) were introduced. Tea sets incorporating a teapot, sugar bowl and cream jug (creamer) were not in common use in the Western world until the late 1700’s when the reduction in the price of tea made it more available to the masses.
It was during the reign of Queen Victoria 1837 – 1901 that the tea kettle and coffee pot were added to the more sumptuous tea services. ‘Afternoon tea’, a light meal including small sandwiches, dainty cakes and tea became the fashion mid to late afternoon as the midday meal had become more modest and tea services naturally played an integral part in regular tea parties.