welcome to the exciting world of tea collectibles. the history of tea and it's economic, social and political influence is fascinating.
tea drinking in china became fashionable during the t'ang dynasty (618-906 ad). in 1600 elizabeth i founded the east india company. commerce was emphasized and tea first reached europe around 1610, when the dutch with their east indiamen vessels, imported the leaf from japan, java or china. tea is thought to have come to the court of england, during the reign of james i. tea rapidly became the rage in britain, which saw coffee houses converted to tea establishments, so during the period of about 1650, coffee, cocoa and tea were all popular in the social establishments of england.
as tea became the drink of the ton, it is only natural that accessories would follow. the first tea imports were shipped in containers of stoneware pots, jars or boxes, all of which were packed into large tea chests for transport by sea to the country of destination. the malaysian term "kati", that represented about one and one half pound, is thought to be the origin of the word caddy. the term tea chest referred to the box or chest that held one or more caddies that could be removed. they could also contain a bowl that was used for storing sugar or as a mixing bowl to custom blend two different tea's. the term "tea chest" has lost it's true meaning through the years and now these chest's are referred to simply as tea caddies.
the earliest tea pot is thought to have been from about 1670. from that time, the tea pot has enjoyed many changes and became the center of the tea ritual equipment.
the sugar tongs were developed during the queen anne period and were designed to grasp the crude, chunks of sugar. they were refined around 1720-1730 as they gave way to nippers, similar to scissors. they underwent further changes during the 1770's when they took on more of a bow shape.
the mote spoon made their debut near the end of the 17th century. the mote spoon was in use prior to the caddy spoon and was never used during the same period. the bowl portion of the mote spoon with it's pierced bowl, was used to strain the "motes" or tea dust from the pot or cup. the pointed end of the mote spoon was used to unclog the tea pot spout. these spoons are rare and the examples found today date from the mid 1700's. they are too small to carry a date letter in most cases. the usual length was about five to five and three quarter inches.
included in the early imports of the tea chest, was a scallop shell that was used to scoop the tea leaves. this is the first known form of the tea caddy spoon. the caddy shell, caddy ladle or caddy scoop was the inspirational theme for caddy spoons that followed. the tea caddy spoon is a comparatively large bowl spoon with a disproportionately short handle. they are found in many different materials, to include: bone, pearl, tortoiseshell and silver. these were used to lift the tea from the caddy to the serving pot or the mixing bowl.
the finial accessory we will mention is the tea strainer. this form was introduced later and used to keep the tea leaves from going into the tea cup as it was poured from the tea leaves from going into the tea cup as it was poured from the tea pot. these are found in silver, porcelain and many other materials.
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