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Tea and teacups – a sip of history

The British did not invent tea, even though it is a Great British drink, a cornerstone of British culture.   Tea, or Camellia Sinensis, is from China originally – a plant which is a relative of the Camellia tree with its showy flowers and glossy leaves. Tea found its way to England via the British East India Company who purchased it from the Dutch. Initially for the wealthy only, it was sold in the coffee houses in the City of London as a medicinal drink.  In the early 1700’s Thomas Twining opened his Tea Shop on the Strand.

Popular drink

The popularity of tea grew although the taxes remained high. It was estimated that in the second half of the 18th century more tea was smuggled into Britain than was brought in legally.  During this time the rest of the tea brought into Britian was traded with China for opium. When tea seeds and plants were taken to India from China in 1848 by Robert Fortune, a Scottish botanist and plant hunter, tea production took off. Prices dropped and both the commodity and the sustaining brew itself helped to build the British Empire.

Drink to the lees

To drink tea you need a teacup –  preferably  made of Great British fine china.  Who invented china? The clue is in the name – the East India Company imported ceramic teaware from China where most teaware and teasets were invented.  The teacups from China did not have handles and were also called tea bowls.  Saucers had originally been used in the Middle Ages to hold… sauces.  Teacup handles were invented in Germany in 1707.

Teasets for all

Eventually the teacup and saucer were expanded on and in the 18th century the teaset became fashionable in Britain with production being increased in the British ceramics factories during the industrial revolution. The government reduced the taxes on tea itself in 1784 which made tea a drink for all. In 1794 the Spode factory invented bone china and the growing popularity of tea caused an increase in teaware production which fuelled the growth of the famous British ceramics firms. China, much of it teaware, was shipped around the globe.  Teasets were eventually found in almost  every home in Britain as well as the most remote parts of the globe.

Hire Vintage China

If you are planning a vintage wedding , high tea or any vintage event, then you do not have to wait for a cargo of teaware and china shipped by the East India Company. You can hire some vintage British china from the following things you might need from Fine and Floral:  

Tea cups and saucers with teaplates 

Sugar bowls and milk jugs

Teapots, (one is usually enough for 4 people), although this can vary

Sandwich plates and glass and china cake stands

Teaspoons and any other cutlery

A vintage embroidered tablecloth

Vintage vases for floral table displays

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