I’ve been writing about tea for almost eight years now and until recently I hadn’t heard of a certain little gizmo known as a caddy spoon. Or maybe I just forgot. But I don’t think so. In any event, it’s probably no surprise that this should be the case. I’m just making a semi-educated guess but I’d be willing to bet that those oftentimes elaborate storage chests known as tea caddies are not used nearly as often nowadays as they were in earlier times.
Ditto for the tea caddy spoon, which, as you might have guessed, is the spoon used to scoop tea leaves from a tea caddy. I was interested to note, however, that there is at least one group devoted to furthering the interests of collectors of said spoons, that being The Society of Caddy Spoon Collectors. The group has been doing its thing for nearly a half century now, having gotten underway back in 1965.
There once was a time when buying a couple hundred tea bags for a few dollars was simply not an option. Not only was the notion of packaging such commodities a relatively rare notion but in the early days of tea drinking in Europe, in particular, tea was a very expensive commodity. Thus those who could even afford to drink tea at all were likely to keep it in a caddy, as already mentioned – and under lock and key.
Given that tea started out as a beverage for these wealthy types it’s not surprising that tea caddies, teaware and pretty much anything else having to do with tea should have been made with an eye toward craftsmanship and without a whole lot of concern about cost. Which was also the case with caddy spoons. Like most other things, they could have been as utilitarian as possible – as long as they were suited to getting the tea out of the caddy – but in reality they often tended to be quite ornate in a wide variety of imaginative ways.
But don’t take my word for it. There are a number of great resources at the Society’s Web site, as well as links to many more. There’s even information on what appears to be a fairly definitive work on caddy spoons, that being Caddy Spoons: An Illustrated Guide, by John Norie. However, if you’re planning to get into collecting caddy spoons you might to skip the book and save your money for the actual spoons. As of this writing, used copies of the 1989 volume are selling on Amazon for about $300.
See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.
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