Tea (and the teaware that came with it) was not popular in Europe until much later in history, around the 1600s. A key figure in cementing tea as a prevalent drink in Britain was King Charles II. Charles grew up in the Dutch capital while in exile, and became used to tea and the customs surrounding it there. When the monarchy was re-established and he took the throne, he and his wife Catherine brought with them this foreign tea tradition. It was from here that the popularity of the beverage began to steadily climb.
By the early Georgian era, tea ceremonies were an important part of daily social life among the upper classes. The teapot (vital to any teaware set) was considered to be an indispensable piece of household equipment. Tea was an expensive commodity; particularly the refined kind drank by the wealthier classes. This exclusivity was evident in the teaware that was produced at this time.
In this period, teaware was predominantly made from materials such as silver in order to reflect the luxuriousness of the product. Such was the popularity of silver teaware at this time that tea tables were often known as ‘silver’ or ‘china’ tables after the tea wares that were displayed on them. This abundance of accessories included:
Coffee pots and tea kettles were not considered to be a necessary part of teaware collections until the reign of Queen Victoria. These additions coincided with the fashion for taking mid-afternoon tea, and allowed for a more extravagant tea ceremony experience. This extension is an example of how teaware has adapted throughout time to suit cultural trends.
Significance of Teaware
Teaware is culturally significant for many reasons. In Japan, the tea ceremony is considered to be a symbol of spiritual awakening, embracing the concept of 'Wabi' and 'Sabi'. In China, the literati of the Ming Dynasty held tea drinking in high regard as a means of refining temperament. They also considered the tea ceremony to be a social occasion, whereby friends who shared the same ideals could gather together. In the Regency period, teaware was used as a marker or class and power. For example, tea caddies were lockable in order to limit servant access to the expensive produce inside. These could only be accessed by a key which was kept under the watchful eye of the lady of the house.
Antique Silver Teaware
Silver teaware is still used in many homes as part of an elegant dining experience, particularly when entertaining guests. Antique silver teaware is highly sought after, and very collectable. Smaller items of teaware such as caddy spoons can often be found in novel forms that make humorous additions to any home. Additionally, important teaware items such as teapots can be found in many different styles and patterns. Antique silver teaware is exceptionally resilient to trends, due to it being such a staple part of life globally throughout the centuries.