Recently I had the opportunity to put together a small showcase using items from the archives, I decided to focus on tea and the various elements, practices and cultures link to, and by, the beverage and its accoutrements.
Tea spans across the world and has seeped its way into history and culture in a multitude of ways, it is thought to be the second most consumed drink globally, it has been a part of sociocultural practice for countless years. Known by various names and presented in a variety of forms, both hot and cold, in an amazing array of colours and flavours. Tea has a whole industry and heritage surrounding it. The essential natural good to create the beverage, to the utensils required to prepare it, the containers use to hold and serve it, the mealtime it shares its name with, the architectural structures built to host it, the business that rely on it and the economic systems that it has shaped are just a small list of the various interlinked tea elements still present today.
Original tea came from China on large boats called Tea Clippers, much like the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. The Great Tea Race of 1866 was the media sensation of the times. The Ariel, famed as being the winner of the Great Tea race arrived back with its cargo, which included, among other produce, 560 tons of the finest tea pickings, in early September 1866.
The twigs and roots of some plants used for tea have a higher potency and caffeine content in comparison to the leaves. The harvesting of tea is called plucking or plucking the hills.
Tea was one of the main items traded by the East India company between the 1600 and 1874. In the 15th century Tea was quite expensive and so was viewed as a representation of status and wealth in the UK. The cost of tea in 1635 is recoded as being between £6 and £10 per pound which, today, would be the equivalent of between , approximately, £100 and £167 per pound. It wasn’t until the early 1800 that tea began to come from India.
The classical tea beverages are brewed using the Camellia Sinensis or Camellia Taliensis plant, of which there are over 3000 varieties, this does not include herbal and fruit teas. Teas come is various guises, hot, cold, herbal, milk, fruit to name a few and they are ever evolving into new and unique
Tea has also created an industry for tea accessories and equipment. From the tea cup to tea bag tongs, there are a multitude of tea tools and other paraphernalia for the tea enthusiast. There was a period of time, during the industrial revolution when silver teaware was the height of fashion but the classical materials such as ceramics, porcelain, stone, glass and clay have remained favourites of tea consumers, tea item collectors and tea business.
Tea has also created an industry for tea accessories and equipment. From the tea cup to tea bag tongs, there are a multitude of tea tools and other paraphernalia for the tea enthusiast. There was a period of time, during the industrial revolution when silver teaware was the height of fashion but the classical materials such as ceramics, porcelain, stone, glass and clay have remained favourites of tea consumers, tea item collectors and tea business .
Although is impossible to mention every element related to, or influenced by tea is would it would be a shame not to mention the imaginative nature of tea and play in music, games and literature. This playfulness surrounding tea is a interesting juxtaposition to its influence on social status and its economic power. Not just a beverage but also a form of play and socialising.
Tea has solidified its place in society and holds it own unique and varied history. This exhibition aims to brings together works and items which display, a fraction of, this link by their inclusion of tea or their close association to tea and are in the display.