I’ve always been interested in all the paraphernalia that accompanies the Western tea ceremony, though my knowledge of what constituted a tea caddy for years was limited to the wooden chest that well-to-do hostesses in days gone by would bring out to serve tea at the table.
Only recently did I become aware of how many different containers have been used historically to store tea. Then I ran across the book, A Tea Caddy Collection, which is a literal pictorial feast for the eyes of all different tea caddy types that were collected by the author’s mother over decades. Snippets of the history of various tea caddies, amazing photos, and page after page of it! It’s a beautiful coffee table book, if not interesting for the historical interest alone. The range of porcelain tea caddies, not to mention wooden chests, fruit caddies, stoneware and all manner of other kind of caddies is a pure pleasure to browse through.
So my own collection of caddies is miniscule in comparison (if growing!), though I have one particular favorite of the porcelain tea caddy kind.
I love the sloped-shoulder shape when it comes to porcelain caddies, though this one is a favorite for one very simple reason – the scene on it makes me think of early Colonial America (a favorite historical era for me, if you’ve seen my post on Teatime in Colonial America).
I feel like I could just see early New England settlers – even my own ancestors that settled near Boston – going to harbor to see the sailing ships come in, a few small fishing boats on hand.
As this caddy is German made, however, and because I see a very very faint building in the background that looks like it could be a windmill, I suspect the landscape is intended to represent more a European than American scene. But I suppose I’m still allowed to see in it what I like!
This caddy is from West Germany (so pre-reunification!), with the Fuerstenberg stamp; also a hand-written “handgemalt (hand-painted)”, and a number “3750/1” and what looks like a small letter “b” on the bottom, all hand-painted on.
This slope-shouldered Chinese porcelain caddy shape was, according to A Tea Caddy Collection, the most popular shape in the eighteenth century.
Of the ones I’ve collected so far, only the one with the heraldry pattern has a chance of being that old, coming from an estate sale in New England originally, with writing on a cracked and yellowed label on the bottom that probably explains its provenance further but which is, sadly, pretty indecipherable now.
It was my favorite Rennaisance man, William Morris, who said something like only have things in your house that are useful, and that you believe to be beautiful.
Luckily for me, porcelain tea caddies are both! I hope you are able to find a tea caddy or two that speak to you, that you can not only use, but admire as well.