Over the past couple of years, motifs of cups and saucers, teapots and cakes have dominated the gift and home wares market and even seeped into high street fashion. The Queen’s Jubilee, The Royal Wedding, The Olympics etc have lead to an unprecedented fascination with ‘Britware’ and the humble cup of tea has never been more en vogue.
I live in Yorkshire and I drink a lot of tea. I drink 6-10 mugs a day and can easily drain a pot solo in a hour. I like regular tea and at a pinch, Earl Grey but say a big NO to herbal tea. I see my dislike of herbal infusions very much like I see my atheism – as my loss. I want to believe, I really do; what sounds nicer than raspberry and elderflower or lemongrass and ginger? All these combinations sound delicious and tempting but alas I am faithless and they all taste like hot dregs to me!
No, it has to be the original and genuine article for me, but should Camellia sinensis be considered an inferior brew just because we have a tendency to dump milk in it and swill it down by the gallon over here? Just because we dry the stuff out and wrap it in paper fibre, should our Yorkshire Tea™ be treated with any less reverence than its fresh, green version or fancy herbal blends?
OK, we don’t have a tea ceremony as such here in the UK but look around. Vintage tea rooms, salvaged, mismatched china, ladies serving in handmade aprons, scones, bunting, doilies, the WI, vintage dresses with neatly pinned hairstyles and in the middle of it all – tea! We want a ceremony, we crave it – choosing the appropriate vessels, tray dressings, optional cakes, the sugar goes in a bowl, the milk goes in a jug and if it doesn’t all match it should at least compliment to create a work of art to impress an afternoon guest. Those of us in the middle of our lives and beyond were brought up with at least one relative that observed these rites of tea and we salute them, for they kept the cup, saucer and sugar tongs alive long enough for this fashion fuelled resurgence.
My grandmother’s legacy and a local car boot sale keep me in crockery. My Paternal Grandmother’s taste was for the fashionable blue and white favoured by suave Victorians like Dante Gabriel Rosetti. She loved her willow patterns and displayed them on a round top cabinet now in my proud possession. My own taste is more modernist, like my maternal grandmother’s whose kitchen was filled with what we now like to call ‘Retro’ – pyrex and bold patterns from the 1950s and 60s. Meakin pieces and similar in Blue and Green are my weakness, the more mismatched the better! There is something comforting about a real retro cup, it’s unaffected and takes you right back to an easier time when tea was just tea.
At Wychbury, Lesley has been making tea themed items for a while. Her earrings are inspired by the medieval herb garden and her gorgeous herbal tea bracelets and ‘Love Tea’ necklaces are very popular gifts for our customers’ tea obsessed loved ones!
I love to place these pieces with vintage china on our stall at craft fairs and the theme has become an intrinsic part of our display. From time to time I add in any complimentary pieces from my own range that may have a suitable look and recently found a ‘Willow Pattern’ fabric from Fabric Freedom and took it one step further with a set of three tea themed pincushion brooches. A doll’s house tea set, a willow pattern plate for viola hair clips and a blue and white pot of herbs complete the display.
So however you like it to drink it, whatever your taste in crockery and regardless of your feelings about its new prominence as a fashion icon...Keep Calm and Drink Tea.