The Farm Antiques, Wells Maine

Tea Caddies of the 18th and 19th Century

Tea, Status and Storage Part Two – Tea Caddies of the Late 18th and Early 19th Century

This blog continues to explore tea and the development of tea caddy design from the late 18th through the 19th century.  By the early 18th century, tea had become an important part of English social life.  So it is not surprisng that by the last half of the 18th century important designers were including boxes for tea storage in their design books.  Both Thomas Chippendale and George Hepplewhite had a page devoted to tea chest design; Hepplewhite also had a page of tea caddy designs.  (As you will remember from my previous blog, tea chests had removable containers for tea, tea caddies were containers in their own right.  By the 19th century the terminology had changed so that tea caddy described both type of boxes.)  Throughout the 19th century tea caddy design evolved to reflect the changing tastes and attitudes of the era. 

The difference between the 1762 designs of Chippendale’s The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker’s Director (see my earlier blog) and the 1788 designs from Hepplewhite’s Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide parallel the trends in style. The shapes of the  tea chests were generally similar, but Hepplewhite Teacaddyreplaced metal mounts with neoclassical inlays. His tea caddies boasted more varied shapes and sizes.

There were single, double and triple sizes. The tea chests were double or triple
sized. The double size had two compartments for two different types of tea; or one tea compartment and one recessed area which contained a glass bowl for sugar storage. The triple size usually had two compartments for tea and one for a sugar bowl, though occasionally there were three tea compartments, presumably because the owners were protesting the use of slaves in the production of sugar and were thus boycotting sugar.

The Hepplewhite style was marked by having no feet, being of square, oval, oblong, polygonal or elliptical shape. The tea caddies have straight sides, generally flat lids, though occasionally domed or concave lids are utilized. In tortoiseshell or ivory caddies the tops are sometime pyramidal. Sometimes you will find a small handle or finial on the top; keyholes are inlaid with ivory, bone or boxwood. They are enhanced by inlays of contrasting woods and sometimes embellished with engraved lines. Often the boxwood inlays are shaded by use of controlled burning in hot sand. (more…)

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Tea, Status and Storage Part One 17th to Mid 18th Century

Tea, Status and Storage    Part One   17th to Mid 18th Century
By Hannah Crouthamel

Brief History of Tea in England
Tea, originally used in China in the 4th century as a healing beverage, found its way to Europe in the 16th century, and to England by the early 17th century. In 1639 the “Garraways” opened by Sir Henry Garraway, governor of the East India Company, was Tea Caddythe first coffee house to serve tea. By 1664 the English East India Company was importing tea and hailing its efficacy for curing “colds and defluxations”. By the early 18th century tea was being sold in liquid as well as leaf form in coffee houses, apothecaries, as well as in shops that catered to the female market.

Tea was very expensive. In 1665 it sold for 16 to 50 shillings a pound, that at a time when the average skilled workman earned less than 20 shillings a week. Tea was touted as a delicious beverage with therapeutic properties. It was taxed heavily and as a result came to be smuggled extensively. In 1700 only 70 pounds of tea was imported to England; by 1730 that had risen to about a million pounds. The lure of tea was extreme and by the 1730’s poor working people were partaking of the beverage, though it had been “recycled”. Servants often dried the tea leaves after they had been used and then sold them in the underground economy as did workers in tea shops. This resulted in even wider dissemination of the brew. By the middle of the 18th century, recycled tea had found its way into most corners of society, and tea could be bought by the “pinch” which made it more accessible to all classes and wove this beverage into the very fabric of English life. (more…)

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