About Collecting Tea Cups & Saucer Sets
Collecting tea cups and saucers is a hobby that is very informal and popular. Prices may range from as little as 25 cents at a flea market to $250 for very fine examples. Those who scoff at this area of collecting as being “common” really betray how little they know about it.
Cups designed specifically for coffee, tea or hot chocolate began in the seventeenth century - amazing, once you learn how long the beverages had been around. The reason for this has most to do with the development of the drinking vessels themselves. The earliest cups were made for the wealthy and were made of silver. Considering that all these drinks were consumed hot ( unlike the Chinese who drank their tea lukewarm), it became readily apparent that metal was not the material of choice.
The earliest utensils for tea drinking were small porcelain and stoneware bowls imported from China by the East Indian Company in the early 1600’s. These were not well suited to the Europeans who found them too hot too handle and messy from the hot liquid spilling over the edges of the shallow bowl. In the eighteenth century, handles on these bowls became available, but again, only to those who could afford expensive beverage sets. By 1810, however, handles were fitted to the bowl creating the form we are now familiar with today.
I love teacups and saucers—not because I collect them (although I have to admit I do have a few), but because I associate them with very pleasant memories. I remember my Grandmother’s late evening lunches. Every Sunday my parents would bundle the four of us children to go visit my grandparents. We eagerly looked forward to the lunch. My grandmother would set out a repast suitable for the Queen of England herself, and the myriad china teacups in all their beauty, would stand proudly as part of this feast for the eyes. It was a coming of age of sorts to be allowed to have half tea and half milk one of her tea cups instead of milk in a glass. I even had my own tea set, as many little girls of the early sixties did.
Everyone, it seemed, had lots and lots of teacups. Manufacturers made teacups and saucer sets to stand alone - meaning they were not necessarily part of a dinner or tea service. A tea cup and saucer was considered a suitable gift for a bride to be, and entire bridals showers revolved around this custom. Many of these young brides, now years later, find themselves with a full supply of these lovely articles, unwilling to throw them away, but wishing a younger generation would appreciate them as they once did.
But times have changed. It is sad to see how our major purpose in life seems to be to cram more and more into our busy lives, and not take the time to slow down and appreciate life. Washing a tea cup and saucer that cannot be put into a dish washer is considered a waste of time, yet the effort of creating a memorable setting when we entertain is always remembered much longer than the memory of washing that tea cup and saucer by hand.
Any serious tea drinker will tell you that tea is always best served in a proper tea cup - anything else is a travesty of tradition and refinement. So today, dust off those unloved and forgotten tea cups and use them as they were meant to be used . And for those of you who have never considered them, buy yourself one and enjoy that special moment … slowly.
Demitasse means "half-cup", due to it typically being half the size of a full coffee cup. The Demitasse (pronounced-"dem-i-tas"), originated in France in the 1800's. These smaller coffee cups were first used to drink the stronger espresso coffee after a meal.
The purpose of the smaller half cup is for drinking stronger coffee's such as espresso, cappuccino & Turkish coffee, typically served after dinner. The Demitasse cup & saucer is the next size in the cup & saucer family (middle in the picture, also referred to as a "Demi cup" or "Child's size" cup & saucer). Today's average cup measures approximately 2-2 1/2" tall & the saucer measures approximately 4- 4 1/2" in diameter.
Chintz patterns date back to the seventeenth century when exotic fabrics were imported to England from India. The Staffordshire potteries tried to emulate these patterns on their china designs. The early patterns had large flowers and exotic birds. By the 1820s, many potteries in the Staffordshire area manufactured chintz for everyday use. Many lovely Victorian patterns were made by companies, but today's collectors are interested in the chintz made during the 1920s through the 1950s.
Care of your Fine China - Do not use your dishwasher with fine china, dishes with crazed glaze, lacquered metal, wooden wares or bone or ivory or wood handled serving pieces. These pieces should never be cleaned in a dishwasher. The hot water and detergent will damage them. Hand wash using a mild dish soap and dry with a towel.
If your china is crazed and has stains there are a couple of tricks to try to remove the stains. We at Abe Silverman's can not personally attest to the safety or success of the following china cleaning methods.
Wear protective gloves for this treatment, as it will burn your skin. Peroxide - This is not the peroxide you buy at the drug store. You need to buy the stronger type at a beauty supply store. Mix 1/3 water and 2/3 peroxide. Wet a Q-tip, or cotton ball, with the mixture. Dab the spots that need cleaned, this should help to pull the stain out. This is a long process and you'll likely need to repeat it many times to remove larger stains.
You can also try a soak that is a mix of white distilled vinegar and salt. Equal parts of each and soak.