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You may be shoveling out from under the latest two or three feet of snowfall, or knocking icicles off the eaves, or huddling around that gas stove in the kitchen to keep warm because your power is still out, but you probably have dreams of Spring, with Summer to follow, going through your head anyway. A nice teapot with a lovely Spring or Summer time design will definitely help those dreams take shape! They’ll also get you planning those warm weather tea parties (and yes, warmer weather will be coming).

Below are four such designs that are so gorgeous with their floral patterns that your hayfever will go into overdrive.

Some wonderful Summertime Designs! (comp using ETS images)

Some wonderful Summertime Designs! (comp using ETS images)

Summertime Flowers Porcelain

A lovely blue, orange, and purple floral design, featuring gold trimming. Sure to bring color and beauty to your tea time. Available as a tea set and separate pieces. You have several options in all:

Summertime Gardens Porcelain

A lovely mauve and yellow floral design, featuring gold trimming. Sure to bring color and beauty to your tea time. Available in a tea set and in a deluxe tea set featuring dessert plates. You have several options in all:

Summertime Roses Porcelain

A lovely pattern of mauve and yellow roses, featuring gold trimming (not recommended for dishwasher or microwave use). It will bring color and beauty to your tea time and sure to be a hit at your next family gathering, holiday, or just because. Available in a porcelain tea set and in a deluxe porcelain tea set featuring dessert plates. You have several options in all:

Summertime Breeze Porcelain

A lovely mauve and red floral and butterfly design, featuring gold trimming (not recommended for dishwasher or microwave use). Sure to bring color and beauty to your tea time. Available in a porcelain tea set and in a deluxe porcelain tea set featuring dessert plates. You have several options in all:

Just think, a flower garden with no weeding needed! Wishing you many great tea party moments ahead.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The popularity of tea through the ages has spurred the development of new materials, plus new techniques for working with them, to create perfect steeping and pouring teapots. Bone china is one such material — a result of experimentation and lots of sweat and ingenuity.

Wild Roses Bone China Teapot (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Wild Roses Bone China Teapot (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

First, let me answer that oft asked question: Yes, there is really bone ash in bone china. Thus the name. Usually cattle bones are used.

History of Bone China (Ultra-condensed Version)

Actually, there is some disagreement about who first came up with the magic mix of ingredients (6 parts bone ash, 4 parts china stone and 3.5 parts china clay) for making bone china. One source credits Josiah Spode as being the first around 1793, but another says it was Thomas Frye at his Bow porcelain factory near Bow in East London in 1748 and that Spode simply perfected Frye’s formula. The bone ash, which strengthened the items that it was used in, came from a cattle market nearby and sometimes included other parts besides the bones. Spode used only the bones, producing a finer quality of bone china and enjoying a commercial success that Frye never achieved. By 1776, as a handful of colonies in the New World were declaring independence from King George III in the UK, Spode had gained full ownership of the pottery factory that would from then on bear his name.

Storing and Caring for Your Fine Bone China Teapots

The surest way to avoid chipping, cracking, or breaking a fine bone china teapot is not to have any. Ha! But since they are so beautiful and irresistible, we need some better options here. First, use the teapot with care and a steady hand. When possible, hold the teapot by its handle in one hand and with the other hand support it underneath. When removing and replacing the teapot lid, try not to bump it against the sides of the teapot opening. Don’t use pieces that have been mended. Store in closed cabinets that are in out-of-the-way areas.

Gilded teapots should have extra care taken on the gilt parts, especially if the piece is an antique, and possibly even avoid washing that part of them altogether. Both gilded and non- gilded teapots should be hand-cleaned with gentle soap if needed, but not immersed in water, and thoroughly dried before storing to prevent any mold growth. Don’t attempt to clean mended pieces with any liquid.

If you break a valuable piece, take it to a professional restorer (your local museum or fine china shop may be able to refer you to one). Don’t try to use glue of any kind. If you want to test the teapot for that bone china “ring,” hold it up and tap carefully with a finger.

Some Great Bone China Teapots from Modern Makers

Nothing epitomizes a British-style Afternoon Tea like a fine bone china teapot. Either as part of an entire set or as the star of the tea table, their designs will add just the right touch of elegance while remaining very practical, since they help keep your tea warm longer. Both of these modern versions have a fairly classic teapot design, that is, a wide bottom and a low-mounted and gently-curved spout.

English Cottage Fine Bone China (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

English Cottage Fine Bone China (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Some Great Bone China Teapots Antiques

Other potteries started making bone china as well. Here are some of the competitors in what had become quite a burgeoning segment of the fine teapot market:

English - antique Aynsley England bone china teapot (Photo source: screen capture from site)

English – antique Aynsley England bone china teapot (Photo source: screen capture from site)

  • Antique Aynsley England Bone China Teapot — Founded in 1775, a year before Josiah Spode took over and renamed the pottery factory in Stoke on Trent, Master Potter John Aynsley founded his pottery in Staffordshire. While the founder considered this endeavor as more of a hobby, his grandson, John Aynsley II, took the business very seriously. They began making bone china in 1861 in a specially built factory. As of September 2012, they are one of the few potteries in that area still operating. Their most famous patterns include Pembroke, Cottage Garden, Little Sweetheart, Wild Tudor, and Orchard Gold.
  • Rare C.J. Mason Bone China Teapot, Cobalt, Red & Gilt, Chinoiserie, c.1835 — A gorgeous bone china pedestal teapot decorated in a willow variant with gilding, cobalt blue, and Chinese red. It is about 11-1/4″ long. The finial of the lid is missing, and would have been a strawberry or an acorn.
C.J. Mason Bone China Teapot, Aladdin style (Photo source: screen capture from site)

C.J. Mason Bone China Teapot, Aladdin style (Photo source: screen capture from site)

  • Minton Teapot, Bone China, Antique c.1825, Handpainted, English — A rare example of Minton’s return to bone china production in 1824 (they had stopped for about eight years). It has a flattened melon shape, a molded spout, a fruit finial on the lid, a complex handle, a gadrooned collar, body and base, and a 15-hole triangular strainer. About 10” from spout to handle. The pattern number 677 is hand-painted in puce on the base and agrees with Minton’s wares of this period. The teapot and lid both ring when tapped.
Minton Teapot, Bone China, Antique c.1825, Handpainted, English (Photo source: screen capture from site)

Minton Teapot, Bone China, Antique c.1825, Handpainted, English (Photo source: screen capture from site)

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cups and saucers make wonderful collectibles for any tea lover. They are easily found at antique stores, flea markets, estate sales and online.  There is a large price range (budget to exorbitant) and a variety of styles and colors, which means something for everyone.   There is nothing lovelier than a grouping of pretty cups on display in a china cabinet, or set out ready and waiting for afternoon tea. A collection can be eclectic or have a theme, such as roses, gilding, pink, tartan, etc.

You can decide to collect pieces from a certain manufacturer like Royal Doulton, Spode, Limoges or Wedgwood.  Perhaps your collection will focus on where the cups originated.  I like pretty bone china that was made in England, but you may like Czech, Bavaria, France, Occupied Japan and other sources.

Learning the history of cups and saucers, the differences in bowl shapes (Pompadour, can, swirled), types of handles (ring, loop,curled),  and other features can really add to the enjoyment of building your collection.  For example, did you know that the first European teacups didn’t have any handles?

Another fun aspect for collectors is meeting so many others who share your passion.  You can find many people online who have blogs and like to share photos of their prized cups and saucers.  One site that I highly recommend is Teacup Tuesday with hostesses Terri and Martha who have  both amassed  amazingly beautiful collections.

Finally, a word of caution about starting your own teacup collection.  It can grow very quickly and planning some storage strategy is a must.  My mother-in-law has a very large collection and it fascinated me to see the way she would nest four cups on their sides, so they would fit on a single saucer.  This  would not be recommended for very old and delicate cups, or those that are quite rare, but it helped her store much more in her china cabinet.

I’ve also seen some wonderful wooden wall display units specially made for displaying cups and saucers.   There are also many pretty wire teacup holders used for display on table tops, sideboards and  end tables.

So have fun building your collection and be sure to use those pretty cups at your next afternoon tea, or just for your own special tea for me time.

Don’t forget to check out the parTEA lady’s blog, Tea and Talk!

[Editor's note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What do you drink your tea from? Do you use a clay mug? A Styrofoam cup? A bone-china teacup? There are almost as many different types of containers suited to drinking your tea from as there are types of tea!

Ceramic cups or mugs tend to be either hand-formed (thrown) from clay, dried, glazed, and then fired for strength & finish, or machine-formed. The process of drying, glazing, and firing tends to be the same in a factory-made cup or mug, but it is usually automated and done on conveyor belts and machines that make the process relatively no-touch from a human perspective.

Styrofoam, although the bane of the existence of environmentally-conscious people everywhere, is still used commonly today. It is an extruded polystyrene product that resists moisture and retains heat, making it perfect for housing hot beverages like tea. It is disposable, although not recyclable, and its presence in landfills and the landscape today is enough to raise the ire of those who prefer a “greener” type of warm-beverage container.

Bone china, as the name might suggest, contains bone, or rather calcined cattle bone, which is a fancy way of saying bone ash from cremation of cattle remains. While that may not be the most glamorous way of discussing cattle-remains, the bone ash is characterized by strength, translucency, and a white-colour when fired into china. Unlike many clay or ceramic pieces that are first air-dried and then fired after glazing, bone china undergoes a two-stage firing. The first firing is done without a glaze at temperatures of 1280°C (which is 2336°F), and then fired again at a lower temperature (1080°C/1976°F) after glazing. Bone china is often hand-painted in the glazing stage as well, employing the fine art of those skilled with a brush & paints to create unique, hand-crafted pieces. The resulting china is not only beautiful, but is strong and resistant to wear, although most people I know who own bone china do not wash their teacups, saucers, or dishes in automatic dishwashers with a desire to prevent microscopic scratches that can occur from the abrasives in dishwasher detergent.

No matter how you drink your tea or what you drink it from, cheers! Enjoy the sippable warmth and flavour that comes from your tea, regardless of the container.

Check Sue out on her blog, A Mother’s Heart.

[Editor's note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cast Iron Teapot with infuser basketWhen you think of a teapot, what do you envision? Do you see a practical ceramic teapot like a Brown Betty? Or do you see a hand-painted floral-ensconced bone-china teapot like Hyacinth Bucket sported on “Keeping Up Appearances”? Do you see a tea kettle and not a teapot?

Many wish for the durability of a tea kettle and the functionality of a teapot – something that is both beautiful and sturdy. In centuries past, tea kettles were passed from generation to generation – and not just the fine bone china that existed in wealthy homes. In farm homes and less-wealthy families, cast iron teapots were considered to be workhorses of the kitchen.

Of course cast iron teapots were used to brew tea for the family, but they were also used to boil water for cooking, for baths, and for other household purposes. And they were sturdy.

Cast iron teapots originated in China, although the precise point in history when they were created is unknown. The teapots symbolize strength and indeed provide workhorse-ability in kitchens all over the world.

In previous centuries, cast iron teapots were expected to oxidize (rust) internally, but the iron provided dietary nutrients that otherwise weren’t available in vitamin pill form. Today, cast iron teapots are enameled on the inside and have a durable finish, sometimes colored, other times, showing the natural finish of the iron and allowing it to age naturally and gracefully. The enamel tends to be a ceramic finish that prevents rusting and withstands a bit of scrubbing without flaking off and exposing naked iron inside the pot.

These teapots heat evenly and retain heat beautifully and don’t need a tea cosy to retain their heat. They can be used on a gas-stove (burner on very low), over a fireplace with a hook to suspend it over the flames, or on a warmer that uses a tealight candle to provide extra heat.

Most of these teapots also work well with tea-infusers; the small baskets contain the tea leaves you use to brew your tea and can make it easier to avoid bitter tea from over-steeping. Sizes range from 17 ounces to a whopping 85 ounces – from just a few small cups of tea to enough tea to allow a large family a cup and then some.

These teapots are definitely functional and beautiful, and can last for years – your children and grandchildren can appreciate the same teapot you did and marvel at its beauty and functionality.

Sue also blogs at A Mother’s Heart. Stop by and pay ‘er a visit!

[Editor's note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fine Bone China

Fine Bone China

It’s a basic understanding, of course, that the vessel one chooses for tea drinking won’t necessarily affect the flavor, but it can certainly affect the experience. Style, color and, perhaps, size of the vessel are a matter of preference. But let’s get specific and pick one choice: bone china.

What’s the difference between bone china and the regular version? Is it really about bones? In a word, yes! Porcelain is ceramic material that’s also referred to as china (named after the country that perfected it, of course). There are recipes for porcelain called hard paste or soft paste which vary the strength and feel of the finished product. In 1800, Josiah Spade of Staffordshire, England, added bone ash — animal bones fired at high temperatures to render them to ash — to the porcelain recipe, and effectively created the most durable version yet. Hence the name.

It didn’t take long for word to spread. The recipe was less expensive and the tea cups were lighter and held colors better. Today, bone china has become the standard of England-produced porcelain ware.

Durable as it is, however, it’s still china and requires a gentle care. Hand washing it is best, and harsh chemicals can wear at the glaze and gild of a bone china tea cup. If treated well, bone china can be passed on for generations.

When searching for vintage bone china tea cups, check for chips, cracks, or crazing (hairline fractures in the glaze), all of which can affect the value of the piece. And never drink from a cup that’s been repaired; it’s best to keep that for display only.

Antique shops aren’t the only place to look for bone china tea cups. Try flea markets, yard sales, and, if you’re looking for something specific to complete a collection, the internet. Searching for a perfect bone china cup for your tea can bring as much enjoyment as the cup of tea itself!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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