Fun fact: tea is the most popular drink in the world.
The official history of tea begins in China around the Han Dynasty ( 206-220 B.C.) when tea leaves weren’t loose but were instead pressed into bricks. These bricks were crushed and mixed with spices then placed in bowls (instead of teapots) where hot water was poured over them. At the time tea was probably more medicinal than recreational.
According to historians, the first teapot came from the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) Archeologists found the remnants of a Yixing, or “Purple Sand”, teapot from that era.
During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.) Chinese began steeping whole tea leaves, creating a lighter-colored tea. Teaware was designed to fit around this lighter colored aesthetic.
The Portuguese missionary Father Jasper de Cruz was likely one of the first Europeans to encounter tea thanks to the open ocean routes to China. Previously, Europeans hadn’t known what to do with tea leaves; some thought they were for serving with salt and butter, like vegetables!
The Netherlands encountered a tea craze in the 1600s. Hefty tea prices meant that the drink was only for the wealthy. The tea sets at this time consisted of small teapots and tea cups.
The next step in tea-dom was for Russia to have its own tea hype. Russians developed their own pot called the samovar, which served almost 50 cups of tea at a time. A home was only classy if it had a samovar.
By 1675 tea had become widely available in Europe. This was helped along by the trend of anything to do with the Orient. Asian items became the hot commodity, which of course included tea sets.
In 1627 the first silver teapot was made. Only in the 18th century were larger teapots made, thanks to the decreasing price of tea. People didn’t have to be miserly about their tea anymore.
A teapot with a similar profile and shape as this one (S&C ETC.) with a tall, elegant aesthetic.
And tea made its way to the New World, where American pottery was solely for function, not form; the Boston Tea Party brought down tea’s popularity, but only briefly.
Queen Victoria, who has influenced many a trend in history, loved tea and during her reign the modern six piece tea set came into being. The whole set includes the teapot, creamer, sugar bowl, tea kettle, coffee pot, and waste bowl.
Since then, the only main tea invention is the tea bag (purists would argue that loose leaf tea is better, but you can’t beat modern convenience).
Tea seems to command a sort of respect, doesn’t it? And nothing respects tea quite like owning your own tea set.