When I get steamed you’ll hear me shout!
Tea and teapots can do many things. A teapot can be an object we sing about in the form of a beloved children’s song or it can help teach us we need to learn to control our tempers from the big screen. Tea can calm an upset stomach, be a drink shared with friends, and help start a Revolution.
The teapot has been around since the late 1600’s, early 1700’s; much later than tea. The earliest record of tea came
from China in 780, but it is believed that tea was drunk in China three thousand years before that. Tea is an evergreen, tropical plant from the Camellia family. It was originally indigenous to China and India but today grows all over the world, including the United States! Of course here in United States we have our own history with tea, but we are not famous for drinking it, but pouring it into the Boston Harbor. To read more about the Boston Tea Party click here.
Early Chinese would make tea leaves in the form of bricks which would be dried and then ground down to be boiled in water. During the Sung Dynasty, 960-1279 A.D. boiled water was poured over powdered tea leaves and left to seep. This method for making tea was how Europeans were introduced to tea and is why we use this same method today, although our loose tea leaves are confined in bags. It was during the Ming Dynasty when a reemergence in tea began and the experimentation with different flavors of teas. To learn more about tea click here.
What we know of as the teapot or teakettle today did not come about until the late 1600’s. Before this teapots and wine-ewers were probably extremely similar, if teapots existed. It is believed that the tea was exported along with a vessel, not for tea making but westerners thought it was; and the teapot was born. The British East India Company was the first to classify what a teapot was. They said that any teapots made for their company in China must have a grate before the spout. They also had a strainer in the teapot to avoid getting the loose tea leaves in the drinker’s cup. Teapots would have either had water poured in them and placed on a source of heat or had the hot water poured in them.
The teapots were made of porcelain at first but it was soon discovered that the porcelain would crack when hot water touched it; this led to an earthenware material which would not crack. Bone china was also a material used to make teapots. The teapots in our collection are made of different types of metal. The basic design of the teapot has stayed extremely similar to that of the British East India Company. One difference would be loss of the strainer, which was no longer needed as a lot of tea drinkers use bags. Another difference would the electric teapot; first patented in the United States by Nellie Victoria Linger of Kings Park, New York in 1937.
Throughout the world tea drinking became a pastime and something fashionable people would partake in. The different
materials helped make the teapot available to the middle class, which when coupled with the amounts of tea being sold, helped make tea a drink for every class. The picture on the right shows a silver tea server from our collections here at the High Plains Museum. These particular types of tea servers would have been used at a ladies gathering, lunch, or when someone was entertaining. The other teapots in our collection would have been used for similar functions, (even though they look more like the teapots we might have in our houses) and everyday use. Several cultures, like China and Japan, have tea ceremonies which are cultural traditions.
Teapots come in many different designs and in different sizes. The teapot on the left shows a dark blue and white granite teapot with an enamel look from our collection. It is also a larger teapot than the others in the collection. Today, teapots are a staple in most kitchens whether used frequently or not. As tea became a more popular drink the teapot was invented in the late 1600’s which helped the drink become fashionable. Teapots are part of our culture; from parties to a children’s song or movie, we all grew up knowing of a teapot.
Look for more posts in this series about our wonderful collection of Sherman County history.