Tea Caddies

Isn’t it funny how our habits change as we age. As a young man the only hot beverage I ever consumed was coffee, ‘stand your spoon up’ strong with a splash of milk. As I graduated into middle age, the coffee became a little weaker and a cup of tea was occasionally taken at breakfast time. As I progress further on life’s path, tea is pretty much the order of the day, ‘stand your spoon up’ strong with a splash of milk.

When tea was introduced into Europe in the 17th century it’s popularity rocketed, unheard of profits were made and tea caddies were born. The caddy was such a useful item as it could be kept in the drawing room under the beady eye of the mistress of the house and it could be locked.

Early imported tea was prohibitively expensive for all but the richest in the land, so early caddies were more often than not beautifully made and extremely expensive. The first examples were imported Chinese porcelain and styled like a ginger jar. They had a sliding top enabling tea to be poured in and a rounded cap facilitating easy measurement of a portion.

As tea drinking progressed through the 18th century it’s popularity increased and so did the tea caddies that kept it safe. Originally blue and white Chinese porcelain they were now to be found in wood, Sterling silver, brass and copper. By far the most commonly seen in the salerooms today are the wooden examples. These are a delight to collect, from the plain rectangular to the sumptuous casket. The slightly larger examples had three sections and were fitted with a central blending bowl to mix and blend.

As the 19th century progressed so the price of tea came down. This meant the lock on the caddy disappeared and gradually the tea went from the drawing room to the kitchen and the poor old caddy disappeared for ever.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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