|Photo from bauhausfrau on Flickr|
In the 18th century tea drinking was an established social custom with a recognized etiquette and distinctive equipage as we know from the pictures and writings of the period. At teatime men and women gathered to pursue leisurely conversations and enjoy the sociability of the home.
Today I will continue the discourse of Taking Tea in Colonial America from yesterday's post (Part 1) and share on the topic of Tea Equipage. This information is highlighted from a public domain book entitled Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America: Its Etiquette and Equipage by Rodris Roth that can be found in its entirety at Project Gutenburg. Excerpts are in italics.
|Teapot stand, Chelsea, England, 1759-1769|
Tea furnishings, when in use, were to be seen upon rectangular tables with four legs, square-top and circle-top tripods, and Pembroke tables. Such tables were, of course, used for other purposes, but a sampling of 18th-century Boston inventories reveals that in some households all or part of the tea paraphernalia was prominently displayed on the tea table rather than being stored in cupboards or closets. The most popular type of tea table apparently was the circular tripod; that is, a circular top supported on a pillar with three feet. This kind of table is seen again and again in the prints and paintings and is listed in the inventories of the period. These tables, usually of walnut or mahogany, had stationary or tilt tops with plain, scalloped, or carved edges.
Table cloths—usually square white ones that showed folds from having been stored in a linen press—were used when tea was served, but it is difficult to say with any certainty if their use depended upon the whim of the hostess, the type of table, or the time of day. A cloth probably was used more often on a table with a plain top than on one with scalloped or carved edges. However. . . it was perfectly acceptable to serve tea on a plain-top table without a cloth.
Throughout the 18th century the well-equipped tea table would have displayed most of the items seen in this painting (below): a teapot, slop bowl, container for milk or cream, tea canister, sugar container, tongs, teaspoons, and cups and saucers. These pieces were basic to the tea ceremony and, with the addition of a tea urn which came into use during the latter part of the 18th century, have remained the established tea equipage up to the present day.
Such tea furnishings of ceramic were sold in sets; that is, all pieces being of the same pattern. Newspaper advertisements in the 1730’s specifically mention “Tea Setts,” and later in the century ceramic imports continue to include “beautiful compleat Tea-Setts”. In the early 18th century, tea sets of silver were uncommon if not actually unique. . .
|English Pearlware Tea Bowl & Saucer 1790|
|Tea chest, sugar, creamer,|
teaspoons, and tongs.
|Silver strainer made by James Butler,|
of Boston, about 1750
|Tea kettle with lamp stand.|
|Urn for hot water.|
|Tea by George Dunlop Leslie (1835 - 1921)|
Do you have a tea service or any special tea equipage? What is your favorite flavor of tea? Do you brew it from loose leaf leaves or do you use tea bags?