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The history of tea is unclear; however the popular story is this. In 2737 BC the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a Camellia sinensis tree Nearby a servant was boiling water when the tree leaves fell into the water. Shen Nung decided to try this infusion, and that was the start of tea. Tea was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks that traveled to China in the 8th century. Tea was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Portuguese, who lived in the Far East as traders and missionaries. The Dutch were the first to commercially import tea. Britain was introduced to tea in the mid 17th century, when the Portuguese wife of Charles II made it a fashionable drink. Since then tea has become a social drink to share amongst friends. It is enjoyed by many countries; Turkey, Ireland, United Kingdom, Russia and Morocco being the largest consumers. This exhibition will explore tea culture around the world, through the use of tea utensils. Once you have made it to the end of the exhibition, why not stop at the café and grab a cuppa.

This tea caddy is from Japan, and was used in the 15th- 16th century. This karamono tea caddy was owned by a Hakata merchant Kamiya Sotan. Sotan would use this caddy as way to display his wealth and importance to others. As a result, it was used when he hosted the military ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi. At the end of the evening, Hideyoshi requested the tea caddy and Sotan replied with, ‘I will only part with it in return for half of Japan”. Tea during this time was only drank by aristocrats in grand parlors.
This tea bowl is from Japan, and used during the 16th century. This bowl is classified under a Raku ware, which means it was hand shaped and is fairly porous. This was an important development of Japanese ceramics because it was the first ware to use a seal mark as well as the first to focus on the collaboration between the potter and patron. This bowl is shaped in the style that was favored by Rikyu, known as Soeki nari (or Soeki shape). The purpose of this bowl was to drink matcha, a finely ground green tea.
This is a teapot from Germany used in the 1700s. Tea was typically made in a concentrated form which made it strong and quite bitter. As a result, it need to be diluted with hot water. As tea at the time was quite expensive, people often brewed small pots so as to conserve the tea leaves they used. People would reuse their leaves a few times, to save money.
This teapot is from China during the Qing dynasty. Emperor Qianlong loved tea and as such would write poems about his love of tea. As seen this teapot has exquisite detail. On one side there is a depiction of a man being served tea and on the other there is a poem written, “Watching Tea Picking at the Cold Spring Pavilion”. This teapot was created for imperial use, as a result it had to be both functional as well as a piece of art.
This is a tea service from France from around 1765-1770. In the 1700s tea was becoming part of the daily life for the aristocracy and the wealthy bourgeoisie. However, during this time, coffee and chocolate were also popular, so the aristocracy needed new ways to enjoy their afternoon tea. They preferred to drink from porcelain because it did not crack with the heat from the tea and yet it remained cool to the touch. As drinking tea is a social activity, it was often served with pastries, like madeleines or financiers (similar to a sponge cake).
This is a teapot, part of a tea service from the United States of America, from 1790s. This teapot was owned by a Boston merchant John Templemen and his wife Mehitable. Twenty years before this teapot was made, was the Boston Tea Party, in which colonists destroyed the 3 cargo ships from Britain which carried tea. After those events drinking tea was unpatriotic. Those in Boston moved to drink coffee as a way of boycotting tea. Tea in the 1790s was viewed as expensive and a fashionable commodity.
This tea pot is from Australia, circa 1828. Tea consumption started in Australia with the aboriginals drinking an infusion of leptospermum (not the same as the camellia sinensis plant). Due to the colonisation of Australia, eventually the British way of drinking tea was adopted. As seen in this teapot, it is styled after the neoclassical style of England’s late Georgian period. Like other countries, tea has become a social activity to share anytime of the day.
This is a Victorian tea set from London, used in the 1840s. The story is that Queen Victoria had a lady-in-waiting, Anna Maria Stanhope, Duchess of Bedford. The duchess would get hungry at four o’clock in the afternoon after a small noon meal. She would then ask her servants to make her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs. Anna began to invite her friends over and this was the start of afternoon tea. This tea set is an example of mixing pottery and porcelain together at a time when tea became cheaper and more accessible.
This is a serving tray made with papier- mâché from India. Tea production in India did not occur until the 1820s. That is when the British East India Company, began to take land and make it a large-scale production. Tea was originally consumed by Anglicized Indians, until the 1920s when a successful campaign by the Tea Board made drinking tea more popular. The Indian tea plants were originally used for medical purposes. However, the plants on the tray were used for Kahwa tea of Kashmir. This tea includes saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, green tea leaves and almonds.
This is a teapot from Canada, created in 1997. It was created by Michael Massie, an Inuit artist. This teapot was Inuit inspired. The crescent moon shapes through out the pot makes reference to a traditional knife, known as an ulu, used by the women for a variety of reasons from cutting hair to preparing food. It is clear from this piece that Massie wanted to create a tea pot that celebrated his Inuit past.
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