The mote spoons short life began in the late 17th century, with the London Gazette describing these elegant and charming spoons as ‘long or strainer spoons with narrow pointy ends’. People were slightly baffled as to how these dainty and shallow spoons could be used to strain tea and they only remained as part of a tea-ware service until the end of the eighteenth century due to the arrival of the tea strainer.
Using a Mote Spoon
Traditionally tea was made by adding loose tea leaves to a teapot of hot water. When the brewed tea was poured from the teapot it would not be uncommon for some stray tea leaves to enter the tea cup.
For this unruly situation any true hostess would have a mote spoon handy on the table in preparation. The slots in the mote spoon would allow the tea leaves to be removed with a simple scoop.
The word ‘mote’ is an old English word that means an obstruction which is in a place it shouldn’t be. With this spoon, the mote is the tea leaf.
There was also an additional use for the mote spoon; due to the pointed terminal of the spoon it made the perfect tool to unblock the teapot spout which would regularly get blocked from infused tea leaves and make the pouring of the tea impossible. The mote spoon terminal would simply be inserted into the spout and rotated; the tea leaves causing the blockage were then released.
There is one further use for a mote spoon which is a less common perception. Due to the early period of the spoon, many households would not be able to afford a silver mote spoon in addition to a caddy spoon for their tea service. Although pierced the mote spoon could be used to scoop tea out of a container, allowing the powdered remnants of the tea leaves to fall back into the tea caddy.
The Design of the Mote Spoon
The earliest examples of mote spoons were rather plain and had rather rough pierced holes; in addition the handle would simply be fused to the bowl with not much thought given to its aesthetic appearance.
Silversmiths added more creativity with their design for the mote spoon during the 1740s and 1750s and we began to see the bowls being punctured with very intricate patterns including leaf, cross and scroll designs being added.
There were two main design differences which made the mote spoon stand out from other members of the ‘spoon’ family:-
- Slots in the bowl
- The pointed terminal
You may find locating mote spoons to be very tricky, those that do still remain are quite expensive due to their high collectability. We don’t often come across mote spoons ourselves, howver we did recently acquire an impressive Georgian mote spoon pictured above. We predict it will sell rather quickly.
Gemma Tubbrit – Online Marketing Manager
Mini Bio: Gemma has many years experience in online marketing and social media. More recently she has focussed her skills within the more specialised jewellery and antique silver industries.