Nowadays, with tea so common, it is hard to imagine what a luxury it must once have been. Imported from the furthest corners of the world and braving perilous sea voyages to reach us, there was a time in British history when just drinking tea itself would have marked you out as being quite well-to-do.
However it wasn’t long before supply moved to meet demand and the increasingly popular beverage began to flood in to the British ports. With tea no longer a luxury item people had to find other ways to show off their wealth. Fortunately tea drinking still offered them plenty of opportunities to do so.
Attention turned to the tea service itself. These were originally imported from China but production in Britain soon took over as makes such as Wedgewood created high quality, affordable sets. Tea services with fantastic designs and intricate patterns became more and more common, with families often owning separate sets for everyday use while these prestige pieces would only be brought out for company.
The very rich were soon taking this to extremes, as they sometimes like to do, and in the 18th and 19th Century tea sets featuring precious metals and jewels were the ultimate table status symbols. You might be drinking exactly the same tea as everyone else but if you were serving it in a tea service made from solid silver you were going to score points for style.
Today, the emphasis is back on the tea with table ware being relatively cheap while rare Chinese teas selling for a small fortune. It is possible to pick up the delicate china tea sets that were once worth so much for next to nothing in charity shops. If you find yourself on a budget while shopping for table ware, why not have a look for them? You can treat yourself to a tea fit for Queen Victoria herself.
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