(A Small History)
A tea cup is just a tea cup. Not to some. Tea cups can and are sometimes the center point of the tea presentation. And depending what culture you are from dictates your like or dislike of a particular cup.
But, a few words about history of the tea cup.
It appears the first tea cups made their way to England from imports from China. These first tea cups were handle-less and were called tea bowls. And it was not until the year of 1700 did saucers appear. In about 1750 a man named Robert Adams inspired tea sets that the tea cups had handles. The English welcomed Mr. Adams designs because they thought that the tea bowls were way too messy, and that the English often would burn their hands on the tea bowls. Robert Adams designed tea cups that were taller than their base and came with a saucer. The English thought this was quite unique and this became quickly the standard of what is known as the English Tea Service Set. Since the English loved to put cream and a bit of sugar in their tea, Robert Adams also inspired the tea pot, sugar holders, milk/creamer containers, and even tea spoons to match. Mr. Adams made these tea cups from porcelain that was strong but delicate in its look. If one holds an English porcelain cup into a light, it will have a translucent look.
Today in England there are a couple of companies that come to mind when a collectable type of tea service is sought. Two of them are The Royal Doulton and Limoges. These companies can provide China that while is useful and functional is also collectable for the appearance and quality of the fine bone china. Some would say that they may purchase these for the investment potential, and many a new bride-to-be in England will register and hope that she would receive this special china. The Royal Doulton Company dates back into the 1700’s when a man named Thomas Minton designed an under glazed blue printed earthen ware and then in 1799 he began to make things in bone china. This company continued on making fine tableware, gifts, and collectables. How they got the royal name because they regularly supplied the Royal Family with their goods and services and were handed what was known as a royal warrant in the year 1901 by King Edward.
Many other European countries today enjoy the porcelain sets that were inspired by Robert Adams, but some countries still will have a cupboard filled with handle-less cups. These are sleek, simple, streamlined and serve the purpose of drinking tea.
Other countries vary in the style and type of tea cup. While tea was said to have originated in China, the Chinese will manufacture and sell many ceramic tea cups usually very colorful and has a ceramic lid. But the Chinese prefer to drink their tea in pottery ware. They are very proud of what is known as their “purple clay”. Most famous purple clay can be found in the regions of Yixing, Jinqdezhen, and Jianqsu. These tea cups are handle-less and require the user to completely wrap hand around tea cup. The pottery-type tea cup is thicker thus, protecting the hand from a burn.
The Japanese do have 7 oz. tea cups with handles, and some with lids and strainers built into the cup (very innovative), but they also prefer the handle-less pottery-type or ceramic in some cases. They are small usually between 3.5”-5” tall. They usually have hand painted designs with flowers, poems, or geisha girls for example.
Middle-East countries overall use tea bowls. In Morocco for example, tea glasses are favored over any other drinking vessel. The glasses are usually very colorful and festive and have lots of artful details.
As with other Middle-East countries, India drinks their teas and Chai and Chai Masala’s from either tea bowls or small glass tea cups. India does prefer a 10 oz. cup and do more often than not use saucers.
So one can see that as we span the world over, and with tea being the number one drink in the world, tea cups and tea cup collecting is a very serious matter. If you want to have some fun, have your next tea in a cup from another country!