The Earliest Known Teapot

The Earliest Known Teapot (belonging to the Earl of Bristol) dates from 1697. At first the new beverage was drunk out of silver bowls, and afterwards from earthen cups, and then from China cups. Teapots were introduced from Holland. Probably the cups at first were smaller, and the infusion was not made so strong as at present. Hartley Coleridge, a great Tea-drinker, when asked how many cups he generally took, replied, "Cups, Madam! I don't reckon by cups! Pots, Madam, pots".

Boswell makes mention of a teapot which belonged to Dr. Johnson, and held two quarts. Another teapot of his was purchased some years ago at Mrs. Piozzi's sale, at Streatham, and which was reputed to be the one he usually employed, holding more than three quarts; it was made of old Oriental porcelain, painted, and gilded. His consumption of Tea was prodigious, beyond all precedent; he professed to have drunk five-and-twenty cups at a sitting. China Tea cost sixteen shillings a pound at that time. Great ladies set the fashion of sipping it in dainty cups of the finest Oriental China. It was a common custom in the eighteenth century to put the spoon in the cup as an indication that no more Tea was then desired; turning up the cup in the saucer was another way of signifying that one had finished Tea. In an old volume of Household Recipes (1776) the writer speaks of Tea as a "tincture," and says too much milk must not dilute the "tincture"; he uses this term as though the drink were a medicinal draught, so as to conceal its true forbidding flavour.

Austin Dobson wrote concerning a famous eighteenth century lady: -

"She was renowned, traditions say, For sweet conserves, and curds, and whey, For finest Tea (she called it ' Tay '), And ratafia".

Formerly there was infused a beverage known as Breast Tea, or Pectoral Tea; it was composed of marsh mallow leaves, eight parts; coltsfoot leaves, four parts; Russian liquorice, three parts; anise, two parts; mullein, two parts; and orris, one part. A tea made with the dried petals of the wild violet (Tricolor), or common pansy, is invariably curative of the scald-head, or milk-crust of children if given weak, and in small quantities (from one to two tablespoonfuls) three times a day; whilst also using some other portion of a stronger violet-tea for bathing the affected parts of the scalp externally. This wild violet contains a special medicinal principle, "violin".

If preferred, the herb, whether fresh, or dried, may be boiled slowly in milk for two hours as a more nutritive tea; and a bread poultice made with the strong water infusion of violets applied over the scalp. The Dutch people often improve their Tea by collecting orange blossoms in the season, and keeping some of them with the Tea in the caddy. In the peasant speech of Devon, weak "Tay" is said to be "drefful wishee-washee stuff: 'tez water bewitched, and Tay begridged." Afternoon teas, which are now the order of the day all over England, had their origin at Belvoir, and were introduced there by the Duchess of Bedford. In France, Tea is held more as a medicament than a luxury; if the dinner just eaten seems to have at all disagreed, or to be remaining imperfectly digested, then the kindly host will offer the choice of a cup of Tea, or of chamomile infusion. "Virtuous Tea! thou addest not a blush to the cheek of beauty, not a tint to the nose of valour, not a wrinkle to the brow of age; generosity marks thy path; softness, and sweetness are in thy train".

The national beverage of the South American populations is Paraguay Tea, infused from the dried, and powdered leaves of the Ilex Paraguaiensis, this beverage being the sole stay and stimulant of the working classes there. It is best drunk as a very hot infusion through a metal tube, or "bombilla," without any admixture of milk, and sugar, though it is then bitter. Other persons, especially workmen, inbibe it as an infusion prepared with cold water, when it is known as terere. Workmen carry this drink with them wherever they go, and from time to time have sips of it, therefrom acquiring always fresh energy. The percentage of theine, and of volatile oil in this leaf is very much less than that contained in the Tea leaf, or the coffee berry. Nevertheless, the invigorating, and sustaining powers, whilst differing from those conferred by Tea, and coffee, are found to be superior thereto. Moreover, a long-continued use of the Yerba Mate, or Paraguay Tea, does not entail any harmful effects. Its infusion is pronounced by Dr. Herbert Walker, of Uruguay, Surgeon to the Buenos Hospital, to be "one of the very best aperients existing." He has employed it in many cases of chronic constipation otherwise intractable, and has found it to be "a sheet-anchor under such conditions, which he has never, so far, seen to fail in producing a normal evacuation of the bowels." Again, "In cases of bilious dyspepsia, and all the concomitant symptoms of headache, vomiting, lassitude, etc., Paraguayan Tea has simply worked wonders; besides increasing intestinal secretion, and energy of function, it has a decidedly powerful effect on the liver.

For proper action it should be taken in the early morning on an empty stomach, and as hot as it can be well borne. About a dozen mates should be drunk, and followed by a glass of hot milk, on the top of which another dozen mates are to be consumed, the patient in the meantime taking walking exercise. This practice, if a lasting cure is desired, should be continued for two months, or more." Furthermore, the natives declare that the Paraguay Tea, infused, and sucked up from a small pumpkin, or gourd, through a long reed, is an excellent remedy in fever, and for rheumatism.

The well-known, and highly-esteemed late Dean Stanley. of Westminster Abbey, had no vivid sense of taste, or smell. His cousin, Mr. Augustus Hare, has said that "oysters, and big buns were to the Dean what the most perfectly-devised dishes of a skilful chef would be to an epicure: they were the only edibles Dean Stanley could feel going down." Another eminent divine, of the same school, Professor Jowett, was similarly constituted; and it is said "the two were once breakfasting together, Tea being the beverage they both preferred, though is difficult to say. However, on this occasion they had been talking, and Tea-drinking freely, taking no less than eight cups apiece, when Jowett, during a pause, lifted the teapot to pour himself out another cupful, and then chanced to discover that all the while it had been forgotten to put any Tea in".

The "Funeral Tea"

The "Funeral Tea" is a great feature of Yorkshire life. After a funeral the company, when the house of the chief mourners will not accommodate them, repair to a neighbouring refreshment room, and have a big tea, sometimes a knife and fork tea; anyhow, always with an abundance of cakes, and dainties included. John Wesley, who was strongly opposed to the Chinese leaf, recommended Sage tea as a substitute. In American revolutionary days, when Tea from the far East was boycotted, "Liberty tea" was brewed by the stalwart New Englanders from the four-leaved loose-strife, also from strawberry leaves, currant leaves, and ribwort; whilst " 'Hyperion tea,' " says Mrs. Earle, "was from raspberry leaves, very delicate, and most excellent." One of Mr. Ruskin's practical efforts in social economy was to establish in London a Tea-shop, for the sale of unbrewed Tea, such shop being an unpretentious place in Paddington Street. His object was to supply Tea to the poor at cost-price, and in any quantity from a quarter of an ounce upwards.

Two old family servants were established in the shop to weigh, and sell the Tea. But the experiment was a complete failure; and, as Mr. Ruskin himself wrote, "the poor only like to buy their Tea where the place is brilliantly lighted, and elegantly ticketed." He debated whether he should erect a signboard, in "blue, and white" (Chinese), "black, and gold" (Japanese), or "rose, and green" (English).

"Te, veniente die, te, deoedente, canebo: Non tecum vivere possum: nec sine te".

A small child is said to have innocently asked her mother, who was teaching her good things, what God has for dinner. The mother answered seriously that God does not have dinner in Heaven, whereupon the little body said, with a bright smile, "Oh, then, I suppose He has an egg with His tea! "