Where Did the Teacup Originate and When?
Teacups are not what they used to be. Over thousands of years, the teacup has transformed from more of a bowl to the now delicate porcelain cup with a dainty handle and saucer for holding. But where did they begin? Who was the first to need a vessel to hold hot tea? Through a lot of research, we dug up some truly interesting facts!
The Beginning of An Era
As a lot of people know, tea originated in China. I went back to my research about tea origins and of course found articles on the first tea vessels that humans used thousands of years ago. Dating back to 618-907 of the Tang dynasty, people have discovered texts and unearthed bowls used to drink a hot beverage out of. China was known for their production of tea bowls, which varied from white porcelain to iron-rich stoneware. The Chinese were always trying to find the best materials to enjoy their tea! They used bowls because they drank their tea lukewarm; no handle was needed…yet! Even the color and type of material used to create these bowls influence the taste of the tea.
17th Century Modernization
Now let’s bring us up to the 17th century in Europe. Europeans loved to drink their tea piping hot. A bowl wouldn’t do. Handles were officially added to the bowl in the early 1800s, along with decor and different shapes of cups to enjoy sipping “in style”. There are now 3 basic different shapes of teacups, along with their handles being just as distinct. Styles and decor are vast, which can open up a whole new world for the avid tea drinker!
“Teacups have a strong influence on the tea-drinking experience. Taller teacups will enhance aroma and smell and wide teacups will let you taste more volume and boldness. Further, the material of the teacup can add to the taste or reduce the intensity. The teacup is just as important as the teapot.” https://teasteeping.com/teacups-difference/
We are now seeing the teacup saucer being introduced as well. Did you know that hot tea was poured into the saucer to help cool the liquid down and was actually sipped from the saucer itself? It was frowned upon to drink straight from the cup, and more civil and well-behaved to sip from the saucer. Considered a “dish of tea”, the saucer derived from China as well but was used to hold sauces. Only later did the English adapt the saucer and make its use for something else, sipping hot tea that has cooled.
It’s pretty amazing how many different styles, designs, and colors teacups are created in. Many designers, such as, Wedgewood, Royal Albert, Royal Doulton, and Aynsley, are amongst the finest of tea china. The prices are high for the finest bone china, but appreciated by many tea connoisseurs. Now, I am off to drink a cup myself!