Drinking tea is a family affair. In every household you might find a teapot, some glasses of mug or teabag holders. But with the rise of popularity of loose tea’s, what are the basis teaware that are used nowadays? And what is the difference between “china” and teaware? If you are serious about tea, or going to experiment with some loose tea samples, this article might benefit you. This is not about equipment, we devoted another chapter on this website to that. This is all about the pots, cups, mug, and other teaware items you might find useful in your kitchen.
Fine china vs teaware
Drinking tea from a cup of mug has been around for ages. More then 2000 years ago the Chinese started with manufacturing cups from a clay substance and created porcelain. So, there is a reason for cups of a certain kind that bare the name of a land that harbors such a rich tea history. Chinese porcelain was so desirable that Europeans adopted the name “china” or “fine china”. The European name, porcelain in English, comes from the old Italian porcellana because of its resemblance to the translucent surface of the shell. Europeans experimented with little success for many years in an attempt to make porcelain. Finally, the Chinese ingredients and manufacturing processes were discovered, and Europeans, most notably the Dutch, Germans and the English, perfected the manufacture of fine china.
A fine China tea set that your grandmother might own is a formal set of teaware often used only on special occasions.
While fine china may be used casually, and teaware may be used formally, their purposes are usually used for different occasions. This is due to the additional expense of china, the cost to replace if broken, the rarity of the pieces, the artistic value, and sentimentality, as fine china is often given as gifts; for example, as a wedding present from a gift registry at a department store. I myself inherited a pre-WWII tea set that is precious due to sentimental values. So I only pull it out when there is something special going on, not for my daily cup of tea caffeine.
Teaware in contrast, is less expensive to buy initially, is not costly to replace, is widely available, is not considered artwork, and often does not hold sentimental value. However, you might grow accustomed to a certain cup of mug because of memories attached to it. The other differences lie in the materials, craftsmanship, and often the age of the pieces. Nowadays teaware is mass produced in factories and assembly lines with inexpensive materials. The resulting products are therefore less expensive than fine china.
In short, teaware and fine china is another name for household items made of ceramics or porcelain that are used for brewing and consuming tea for all kinds of occasions.
What are the must haves of a basic teaware set?
Typically, these items belong to a teaware set:
- Teapot – used for steeping the teabags or loose tea leaves in hot water
- Tea cups – used for drinking the tea often made from porcelain
- Tea glasses – used for drinking the tea in glass
- Iced tea glasses – used for drinking the tea
- Tea strainer – for the extraction tea leaves
- Tea ball– which are used to hold loose tea leaves in water for removal after steeping
- Tea filter – paper bag that holds the loose leaves in the water without the need of a strainer.
- Tea tray – for keeping the hot water and cups spilling on you or on the table
- Tea bags for loose tea – prefabricated tea filter
- Tea bag holder – to place your used tea bag or your loose
- Tea caddy – for storing tealeaves
- Cream and sugar set – mainly used in the UK where they drink milk & sugar in their tea.
Teaware sets from other materials
Teaware can also made of other materials. As with fashion trends in time evolve. In museums you might still find teaware sets made of gold or silver. In war times tin or other forms of metal where used. Nowadays glass is often used for drinking tea, often referred to glassware. Plastic & paper cups and stainless steel materials is used in certain establishments. The materials of your teaware set can influence taste, experience and function of drinking tea. A porcelain teaset while camping might not be such a good idea. And drinking from a plastic cup on a formal dinner is also out of place. So, the choice of using and buying teaware should always reflect the locations and function of your tea drinking moments.