ELEGANT TEA CUPS AND SAUCERS

By: John Hogan

The elegance of the Tea Cup & Saucer has graced our presence since early 1800. Prior to circa 1800 cups were hand-less.

ROYAL ALBERT BONE CHINA CUP & SAUCER, C. 1950-60

ROYAL ALBERT CUP & SAUCER, C. 1950-60

ROYAL BAYREUTH PORCELAIN CUP & SAUCER, C. 1930

ROYAL BAYREUTH CUP & SAUCER, C. 1930

PARAGON BONE CHINA CUP & SAUCER, C. 1950-1960

PARAGON CUP & SAUCER, C. 1950-1960

The art of tea drinking has been with us for a couple thousand years starting with the Chinese. However the Chinese drank their tea from bowls and vessels and the tea was not necessarily hot. Around 1600, the Dutch made tea drinking a very aristocratic affair. Shortly thereafter, the English with their haughty elegance made this a drink of choice during their elaborate dining affairs.

Going from tea bowls of the Caughley period to the gracious trio cups and saucers of the Ridgway and Davenport periods, we now evolved into having English factories manufacture porcelain teacups with handles such that the tea drinker could drink his tea at a much higher temperature without scalding himself which was often the case with porcelain tea bowls of an earlier period. Europeans grew accustomed to drinking tea at a much higher temperature than did their ancestors. Hence the elegant tea cup with a handle was born.

Now the Austrian, British, French and German factories had to produce nothing but the best for their aristocratic clients. After all, tea drinking was an elegant affair that was reserved for the very rich during the early 1800s.
As time went bye, class structures began to change. Consequently, the art of tea drinking began to spread amongst the more affluent masses which forced English factories to manufacture more affordable cups and saucers. Near 1890s bone china became the rage and there was a shift from porcelain to bone china. Dinnerware and tea sets were now being produced from bone china rather than porcelain.

Tea cups and saucers evolved for afternoon teatime, being set aside as a special occasion from the regular day. Hence tea drinking became very fashionable for a larger percentage of the population. In the Staffordshire District of England, many factories were in direct competition to produce affordable yet elegant tea cups and saucers that would grace the china cabinets of the upward mobility. Such cups and saucers had to be affordable, brightly decorated and make a fashion statement. Factories began by the turn of 1900 to literally pump cups and saucers out by the truck loads for home consumption and export. What a great way for factories to make bundles of money, keep the masses happy and manufacturers as well!

Hence we have the evolution of various shapes and designs to represent the taste of the people of the Art Nouveau period to the Art Deco period to the even more contemporary times. Therefore all kinds of shapes, designs and decoration were produced to appease the delights of the world. Some fine examples of the more modern day woman was reflected in her admiration of Limoges, Paragon, Royal Albert, Royal Stafford, Royal Bayreuth, Nippon, etc. The list of factories that have and are presently producing such affordable elegance is endless.

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