Tea Accoutrements

By Karen Parr-Moody

 

If one is to host a proper tea – à la the Duchess of Bedford – one must first assemble the accoutrements, which is a task handily accomplished at the original GasLamp and Gaslamp Too.

 

A tea service is, naturally, the centerpiece of any tea party. There is one currently on view at the original GasLamp with all the bells and whistles (photo, right, six-piece Sheridan service in silver plate; $475, Booth B-109).

 

Silver was considered a smart investment by the English gentry, as well as being a symbol of status and wealth. Still, a standard 5- or 6-piece "tea and coffee service," as the one seen in the photo, was rarely seen before the 1800s.

 

Naturally, if one is to have a silver sugar bowl – as is included in the GasLamp service – one requires a pair of sugar tons for the sugar cubes. The sugar cube was invented in the 1840s in Moravia, and an afternoon tea party experienced by a proper lady would have included sugar tongs for handling cubes. 

 

Other silver or silver plated items add a bit of whimsy that will absolutely make a tabletop pop. A silver butter dome would add a Victorian accent to any affair, as we all know that scones are better buttered (photo, left, butter dome; $27.50; Booth B-109).

And while you’re dressing up the table, why not fill small tea pots with flowers? Or a tall chocolate pot, filled with spring tulips?

 

The porcelain set of creamer, sugar bowl, teacup and tray in the photo, right, is a charming Bavarian set. Right now it is being offered for an awesome deal $225 for 48 pieces of china, including an array of plates and teacups. After all, good china is a lifetime investment. And those teacups and saucers will come in handy for your next high tea.

 

As the popularity of tea raged on throughout the 1800s, an array of silver tea-related items could be found in England and in America, including sugar nips, sugar tongs, tea caddies, and mote spoons (slotted teaspoons used to fish floating tea leaves out of a cup). It should come as no surprise that sterling and silver tea infusers (also called "tea balls") were most popular during the Victorian time frame, what with their seemingly infinite table accoutrements (no other culture, before or since, has been known to have a specific fork for strawberries).

 

The variety of tea infusers, made in many shapes and sizes, are extensive. At GasLamp, booth B-109 features a charming infuser that is tailor-made for the landed gentry (photo, left; $17.50).  

 

Unfortunately for silversmiths, a New York tea merchant unwittingly ended the viability of the tea infuser when, in 1908, he put his tea samples in silk bags and sent them to his customers. The disposable tea bag had arrived; that reason alone is enough to make collectors treasure the craftsmanship of the early infusers. 

 

Indulging in the elegance of Victorian afternoon tea goes way beyond the crumpets, scones with Devonshire cream, and petit fours. These decadent desserts fairly cry out for the proper tableware to accompany the Earl Grey. And with a quick browse at GasLamp and GasLamp Too, one is surely to find all of the dainty accoutrements that one needs. 

 

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