Collecting Teacups


One of Meredith Sweetpea’s favorites. Purchased in Ireland.

Miss Meredith Sweetpea loves collecting tea cups. There are so many pretty patterns, shapes and colors. That’s why she was thrilled to see an article titled “Tea Cups: From Pretty to Practical”  in one of her favorite magazines: Tea Time.

In the piece, the author talks about why teacups are “beloved collectibles,” and the evolution of the teacup from its roots in China through Europe and beyond.

Did you ever wonder how porcelain cups came into being? Or why milk is added to tea? You’ll have to read the article to find out.

One fun fact: “During both world wars, teacups helped denote status, as officers sipped from china, and enlisted troops drank from metal or tin cups.”

Tips on Collecting Teacups

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Pinky Up or Pinky Down When Drinking Tea?

The Queen enjoys a good cup of tea.

Miss Meredith Sweetpea was invited to partake in a lovely tea last week where the subject arose of whether or not it is proper to raise the pinky when raising the teacup to one’s lips.

Heavens, do people still think that “pinky up” is the proper way to drink tea?


Those in attendance were divided as to the correct answer, with each believing their method to be right. This called for an exploration of how to properly drink tea.

The Proper Way to Hold a Teacup


Pinky up? Wrong!

The proper etiquette for holding the teacup is to pinch the handle of the cup between the thumb and the index finger if the handle is small, or pinching the same two fingers together through the handle.  The finger should not hook through the handle to raise the cup.

The handle should rest on the third finger, using the pinky beneath the cup to stabilize it, or using the 3 open fingers under the handle pressed against the cup to balance it, with the fingers curving back toward the wrist. Never should the pinky be raised.


Hooking through the handle? Wrong!

In fact, it is considered rude to stick out the pinky, in addition to looking ridiculous. The practice originated from those wishing to elevate their status, however, it is ultimately taken as a symbol of elitism. In social settings, lifting the pinky will surely identify you as unsophisticated rather than what you intended it to mean.

Adding Milk and Sugar to Tea

If you wish to add milk to your tea to lighten or cool it, add the milk after the tea is poured into the cup. If you add it before the tea, you will not be able to tell how much is needed.

When stirring tea, use a back and forth swish of the spoon rather than a circular motion. And never clink the spoon against the side of the teacup to shake off any remaining drops. Simply place the spoon on the saucer behind the teacup.

If you are standing and drinking tea, hold the saucer with one hand as you drink with the other. Look down at your cup while you drink, and not at the others in the room. This will help prevent you from spilling your tea down the front of your frock or necktie.

Need a New Royal Doulton Tea Set?

If you need a new tea set, consider the lovely Royal Albert New Country Roses tea service from Royal Doulton, and its matching cups and saucers.


Chinese Teas | Tea History

image of book Tea & Crumpets

Order Tea & Crumpets today

Miss Meredith Sweetpea has taken quite a liking to her new find–Chinese Oolong Tea.  Therefore, she thought it might be interesting to learn a little more about Chinese teas in general, and share it with all of you.

Chinese Teas

Here is an excerpt from Tea & Crumpets: Recipes & Rituals from European Tearooms & Cafes, by Margaret M. Johnson, a book that delightfully offers a history of tea, along with mouth-watering recipes.

“China remains famous for its Continue reading

Tea Facts and Dates | Tea History

Meredith Sweetpea loves fun facts, so here are a few about tea…

  • In 1610, the Portuguese and Dutch first imported tea into Europe.
  • In 1678, the British began importing tea commercially, and took over the formerly Dutch-dominated tea trade.
  • In 1869, the Suez Canal opened, making the trip to China for tea shorter and more economical by steamship.
  • In 1904, iced tea was introduced by Richard Blechynden for the St. Louis World Fair. A group of tea producers organized a special tea pavilion to offer hot tea, but when the temperatures rose to unusual levels, the tea was served in glasses packed with ice.  U.S. consumers drink almost 50 billion glasses of iced tea a year nowadays, or about 80% of all tea consumed in the States.
  • In 1908, tea bags were invented by accident. New York-based Thomas Sullivan had been sending tea in silk bags to restaurant clients throughout the city. He discovered that some of the clients, in order to save time, were brewing the tea right in the silk bags.
  • In 1952, Lipton Tea patented a four-sided tea bag called the flo-thru tea bag.
  • In 1953, the first instant tea was introduced.

How Tea Came to America | Tea History

Tea in the American Colonies

Tea in America

Tea was first introduced to North America in the 1600s into the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. It is said that Peter Stuyvesant brought the first teas to America.  This colony was later claimed by the English who renamed it New York. The English, of course, brought their tea traditions and customs that were common in England.

As more and more people began drinking tea, the settlers began installing water pumps in the area’s natural springs, making water readily available for tea. Then Tea Gardens began becoming popular at these springs, and they were sometimes called “tea springs.”

Other cities, including Philadelphia and Boston, began adapting the English style of tea drinking, and began heightening the experience with fancy silver and porcelain tea services that showcased their wealth and social status.

1700s Tea Trade Between America and England

In the 1720s, the tea trade between England and America was Continue reading

Twining’s Tea and the First Tea House | Tea History

Thomas Twining, Founder of Twining's Teas

In the 1600s, the newly fashionable pastime of drinking tea spawned an industry.

In the mid 17th century gathering places were almost all tavern-like coffee houses, and catered exclusively to men. They served wine, ale, rum punch, and coffee, but did not serve tea.

The First Tea House

In 1657, Thomas Garraway of Tom’s Coffee House in London, England became the first to  add tea to his menu. The event that created quite a stir in the community.

The Beginning of Twining’s Tea

In 1706, Thomas Twining purchased Tom’s Coffee House, renamed it Twining’s and added his own twist to the mix. He began to offer tea for home consumption. Twining had been working with the East India Company earlier in his career and knew about teas. He used the shop to gain advantage against the stiff competition from the abundance of existing coffee houses.

Tea had been gaining in popularity, especially amongst the aristocratic circles, and Twining quickly built a reputation for selling the finest teas. His tea room, Twinings, at 216 Strand in London, still operates today.

In 1717, Twining expanded his store to encompass three adjacent houses, and by 1734, was selling almost exclusively tea.

Tea Comes to America

After Thomas died in 1741, his son Daniel Twining took over the business and began exporting tea to America in 1749. One of his customers was the Governor of Boston.

Tea Etiquette | Proper Tea

Serving tea was an important ritual in Victorian times, and along with it came proper tea etiquette.

The Proper Way to Pouring Tea

Generally, Victorian ladies served the tea to their guests. When using loose tea, pour the tea through a tea strainer directly into the cup. Use a bowl to hold the discarded tea leaves.

Ceramic tea pots are the best, as a metal teapot can alter the tea’s taste, and cools much more quickly.

A tea cozy, or a padded teapot covering, can be used to cover the teapot and hold in the heat, or the teapot can be placed upon a tea warmer throughout the tea service.

Tea cups should be filled about three quarters full, to allow for the addition of milk, if desired. If using a handleless cup, it should always be filled only three quarters full to allow for a cooler area near the rim, so that the hot cup does not scald the fingers. A rule of thumb is that if the cup is too hot to pick up, the liquid is too hot to drink.

The Proper Way to Pick up a Tea Cup

If your tea cup does not have a handle, picture the face of a clock.  It is proper to place your thumb at the six o’clock position, and your index and middle fingers at the twelve o’clock position.

If your tea cup has a handle, you may notice that the handle is too small to put a finger through it. It is proper to “pinch” the handle between the thumb on the front, and the index and middle fingers on the back of the handle to lift the cup.

In both of these situations, it is proper for the pinkie finger to extend outward for balance, but not for affectation.

Never raise the pinkie finger in the air to “put on airs.”

If the fingers do fit through the cup handle, it is still proper to pick up the tea cup in the previous manner, but for safety’s sake, fingers may curl around the handle to lift the cup. These larger handles may be found on larger tea cups.

Do not grasp your tea cup in the palm of your hand.

Do not wave your tea cup in the air or use it to signal for more tea.

It is proper to lift your teacup and leave the saucer on the table. When you are not using your tea cup, place it back on its saucer. When at a buffet tea, you may hold the saucer in your left hand and raise the tea cup with your right hand, then place the tea cup back into the saucer and hold it in your lap. Only lift a saucer and tea cup together when standing at a reception.

The Proper Way to Stir your Tea

It is never proper to stir your tea in a circular motion. Rather, use your tea spoon to “fold” the liquid between the twelve o’clock and six o’clock positions two or three times.

When finished with your spoon, rest it on the saucer to the right of the tea cup.

Do not leave your spoon in your tea cup.

Serving Milk with your Tea

It is generally better to serve milk with tea, not cream. Cream is too heavy and overpowers the delicate flavors of the tea.

You may pour the milk into the tea, or the tea into the milk.

Lemons Served with Tea

It is preferable to serve lemon slices rather than wedges with your tea. Lemons should be displayed on a small plate, along with a tiny lemon fork. Lemons may be placed into the tea cup after the tea is poured by either the server or the person taking tea.

Do not add lemon to tea that contains milk, as it will cause the milk to curdle.

Adding Sugar to your Tea

Most people think of serving lump sugar when they think of a proper Victorian tea, but it modern times it may become necessary to use loose sugar as well. When using lump sugar, never use your fingers to lift a sugar cube. Provide a small spoon or sugar tongs to transport the sugar from the bowl to the tea cup.

Place the sugar into the tea cup prior to pouring the tea.

The Difference Between Afternoon Tea and High Tea | Tea History

Afternoon Tea

What is the difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea? Meredith Sweetpea finds that people often confuse the two and will attempt to clarify the difference here.

Essentially, the two are differentiated by the times they are served and by the meals themselves.

What is Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon tea was eaten about four o’clock, before the evening dinner, as a polite snack. It usually consisted of tea, cakes, bread and sweet butter, and biscuits.

It is said that afternoon tea was introduced in the late 18th century by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. During the 1700s, dinners had been gradually moved from about four o’clock in the afternoon until now seven or eight o’clock at night. And breakfast was at nine or ten in the morning, with a light lunch.  The Duchess became hungry about four o’clock, and found that a light meal served in her room would tide her over until dinner. She found the experience so pleasurable, that she began to invite friends to join her, and thus is the birth of the social afternoon tea.

It originally began with just a light snack of toast or bread with sweet butter, then over time, as the popularity of the ritual increased, began to include more elaborate offerings such as cakes, crumpets, scones, and perhaps some light sandwiches.

Ladies of any social standing should know how to brew and serve a proper cup of tea. She showed off her best tea tray and expensive tea sets that included a teapot and stand, teacups and saucers, a milk pitcher or jug, a sugar bowl, and a basin for holding discarded tea leaves.

There were three levels of afternoon tea:

  • Cream tea: serving tea, scones, jam and Devonshire or clotted cream
  • Light tea: serving tea, scones and sweets
  • Full tea: serving tea, savory items, scones, sweets and dessert

The menu has even evolved to today include three “courses” in the afternoon tea:

  • Savories: appetizers and tiny sandwiches
  • Scones: served with jam and Devonshire or clotted cream
  • Pastries: cookies, cakes, shortbread, and sweets

High Tea at Tea-Upon-Chatsworth

What is High Tea?

High tea was considered to be a main meal, and was generally served between five to six o’clock. It evolved from the 18th century dinner and replaced it among the fashionable. Dinner was then served at eight o’clock or later.

Another term for high tea is “meat tea” as meats were generally served. A typical menu might consist of roast pork, salmon, salad, trifle, white and brown bread, jellies, lemon-cheese tarts, sponge cake, walnut cake, chocolate roll, pound cake, current teacake, curd tart and cheeses. Although tea was the main beverage, hot cocoa and coffee her sometimes served as well.

What is Nursery Tea?

There was even one more type of tea: the nursery tea. It was served at four o’clock to the children and became their evening meal. It was served in the nursery, as children did not dine with the adults. Cake, bread and butter, and jam were usually served, with a sponge cake added for a special birthday celebration.

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