You can have a truly “regal” teatime with some teawares that are fit for a Queen — well, maybe a Duchess (as in Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who is rumored to have started this whole afternoon teatime business, for which hubby and I are quite grateful).
Porcelain, bone china, silver, and glass teawares on your tea table will set the right tone. They’ll not only be beautiful but useful: teapots full of steaming and flavorful tea, creamers and sugar bowls appropriately filled, serving plates piled high with teatime treats, and teacups and saucers plus dessert plates to receive it all and from which you can imbibe gracefully.
Silver teawares have been around for centuries. Antique silver pieces are available here and there. They range from full tea sets, trays (also called salvers), and coffee urns to such accessories as tea balls and spoon-shaped infusers. Silver teapots were often designed in the same styling of those made in porcelain. Such teawares will add a lot of royal sparkle to your teatime and a bit of a stretch to your budget (full tea sets can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars). You could keep your expenditures down to a more realistic level by just adding a touch of silver here and there. From silver-plated teabag holders (you can always use them for something else), sugar tongs, and tea spoons, to a serrated cake server you can add highlights to your teatime that will make you feel like Anna, the Duchess, is pouring you another cuppa while you munch on a finger sandwich.
Porcelain and bone china are not only sparkly (though not as much so as silver) but are also colorful. The finer items are usually decorated with delicate and detailed floral patterns (often roses, both in deep pinks and yellows and some in a royal blue), but also butterflies and wildflowers. Often, they are hand-painted, making them distinctive and with a character all their own.
In the U.S. we don’t have true royalty like a lot of European countries do or did. We also never had Pharaohs like the ancient Egyptians, Tsars (or Czars) like the pre-Soviet Russians, or Caesars like the ancient Romans. Our closest approximation to such exalted personages are families like the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts. In fact, a beautiful pattern of porcelain wares is called “Vanderbilt” and evokes the heyday of the family when their home, The Biltmore, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, was alive with their energy — an energy that not only built an empire but a large part of this country.
For any of these porcelain/bone china sets, you can keep your expense low with just a teapot, or go full-blown with a whole set. Don’t forget the matching tea-for-one set, available for many patterns, so you can treat yourself to a crowning tea moment all to yourself.
Don’t forget glass teapots, teacups, and saucers. They’re not only sparkly, but you get quite a show with the tea, especially with a “blooming” tea. For me, any full-leaf tea can be quite a show in such a teapot. Tea leaves like those in Tie Kuan Yin Iron Goddess Oolong and Chinese Gunpowder Green Tea are processed into a tight shape that opens into surprisingly large pieces when steeped loose in the teapot. They put on quite a show and steep up a liquid of a color to catch the light beautifully.
Pick a teaware (or a whole set!) and reign over your teatime like the Queen (or Duchess or “Tea Princess”) you are. Enjoy!
Make sure to stop by A.C.’s regal tea blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!