TEAPOTS AS AN ART FORM

By: John Hogan

The luxury of tea drinking gave way to the invention of the teapot. A good cup of tea is noted to taste better when served from a teapot.

DRESDEN, GERMANY, PORCELAIN TEAPOT, C. 1900

DRESDEN, PORCELAIN TEAPOT

WADE, COPPER LUSTER TEA POT

Originally when tea first started to be served as a beverage, it was always loose tea that was steeped for at least five to ten minutes minimal to attain full flavor. The invention of the tea bag was approximately 1903-1904. It was a means of having a fast cup of tea without the hassle of waiting for a brewed cup of tea with possible leaves at the bottom of the cup.

From Imperial China all the way to Great Britain, tea was a treasured substance to be locked away from the staff in the aristocratic household. This is why tea caddies were invented. Every tea caddy had a lock and key to ascertain that the staff had no access to this very expensive substance.

The tea trade was strategic to the Dutch merchants of 1679 and was dominated by the British by circa 1770. Merchants dealing in the tea trade became very wealthy and aspired to please their wealthy clients by checking out fancy teas from China, japan, Ceylon and Thailand.

America was not long before it too jumped on the band wagon realizing tea was a very important commodity. The Boston Tea Party of 1773 was a protest against tea duties in December 1773 that sparked off the American War of Independence and so eventually led to the United States of America becoming an independent nation instead of a group of British colonies. Prior to 1773 tea had to be imported into Great Britain before being exported to America.

The London Tea Auction was a grand tradition that lasted 300 years. From the very first event in 1679, until the last sale on 29 June 1998, the London Tea Auction was a regular event that made London the center of the international tea trade. The first auctions were held by the East India Company, which at the time held the monopoly for the import of tea from China and India.

Of course fancy teas had to be served from fancy teapots. Hence the English and French produced teapots in all kinds of mediums from the ornate sterling silver teapots all the way to the refined hand painted porcelain to the pottery teapots. As time elapsed tea became the drink of choice and eventually became more affordable for the masses. Contrary to the haughtiness of the British, by the turn of 1900, teapots became more affordable such that everyone could have a pretty teapot to impress their friends and family. Teapots became a great source of immediate income for many British and European factories. What was once thought to be only for the wealthy now was being manufactured for the upward mobility as people aspired to  climb the ladder of success.


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