Hi…. my name is Martin…..I am a teacupaholic.
Unfortunately for me there is no cure. I can’t resist beautiful teacups. If you stop in the Teacup section of our shop, you will see we have well over 300 different teacups and teapots such as the Royal Swansea Teacup shown above. I thought it would be a good idea to talk about some of the history I have learned about teacups and how designs have changed over the years.
Tea as most people know, originated in India and China, and was generally served in tea bowls, sometimes with lids, usually made of porcelain in Asia and steel or metal in India as early as 200 BC. When tea arrived in Europe it was extremely expensive so only the wealthiest people could afford it. Tea became popular in England when King Charles II married his wife Catherine of Braganza who brought her tea drinking habit with her from Portugal.
Saucers did not appear until around 1700. Since many Europeans, mainly us Brits, liked our tea piping hot, enough to dissolve sugar and milk, a much different proposition then the room temperature ale and wine of the time, handles came along to protect the dainty fingers of the rich and by the 1810s all teacups had handles.
In the mid 1700s tea sets with started to emerge inspired by Robert Adams with sugar holders, milk/creamer containers, and even tea spoons to match. Being designed for the wealthy, the cups were very dainty and usually with simple hand painted designs as shown in the example on the right of a English Teapot made in 1782. These became very popular with the wealthy and along came afternoon tea and high tea. There is nothing like an English high tea with Devon cream and strawberry jam on freshly baked scones and cucumber sandwiches yummy, in fact if you are ever in the phoenix area there is a very nice place for Afternoon Tea in Cave Creek call the English Rose Tea Room ….. but I diverge.
The initial saucers were almost like small bowls. They had a distinctive raised lip to them, so tea could be poured into them to be cooled and sipped. You can see a fine example of this in 1800-1825 Crown Derby Teacup on the left.
This lip gradually lessened through the mid 1850s until by the later 1800s they resemble the flatter design we know today. On the right is a 1860 to 1870 Meissen Teacup which shows what I would call an intermediate design, where the lip is still pronounced but much reduced from the Derby teacup above.
In the late 1800s two different designs became quite prevalent. Majolica , a raised relief decoration as with the rather beautiful and rare such as the Wedgwood Argenta Majolica Ocean Seaweed and Shell Teacup from 1882.
Imari decoration, based on the black and gold oriental designs from Japan became quite popular especially popularized by Royal Crown Derby and later copied by many other porcelain manufactures in England like Colclough Imari Teacup shown below.
As transferware became more prevalent to china manufacturing in the late 1800s this brought down the price tremendously to the point that by the late 1890s mass production was now in place and the teacup was ready for the masses and along with came a multitude of designs from around the world. Fine examples can be found be found from Russia and the Lomonosov factory which continues today, and example is Lomonosov Russian Domes Cobalt Blue Teacup is quite lovely.
Designs continued to involve with art studios creating art pieces such as this Art Studio Hand Painted Teacup . Collecting teacups has become a popular item, wish souvenir cups, special occasions and seasonal series. The English manufactures produce some of the finest and most desirable. You cannot go wrong with a Royal Albert teacup made with a bone china base. An example from Royal Albert is the Jubilee Rose teacup below.