In the 17th century, tea was first introduced to Britain from the East Indies by the Dutch East India Company who had a monopoly on this trade, as well as some of the spices now in common use. As a result, the leaf tea from which the drink was made was an extremely expensive commodity, and so had to be appropriately stored and safeguarded. The tea caddy was devised for this purpose.
The first tea caddies, sometimes called tea canisters, as they were only single compartment vessels, were often of silver, and bottle shaped with a removable top that could be used to measure tea into the pot.
In the 18th century, taxes were imposed on tea making it even more expensive, and to safeguard the contents a lockable box was devised. The simple forms of these boxes had a removable receptacle to store the tea. The larger examples housed two receptacles side by side. The tea containers were often lined with a silver paper like substance presumably to protect the tea from moisture. more...The tea receptacles were often separated by a glass bowl, usually referred to in auction catalogues as the "mixing bowl" or "blending bowl", the idea being that each of the two containers held a different variety of tea, and they were blended in the bowl in proportions suitable to the maker, before being added to the teapot. Others, however, believe the bowl was used for sugar.
The most common material used for tea caddies in the 18th century was silver, and in the 19th century was wood, but tea caddies are also commonly seen finished in pewter, ivory, tortoise-shell, mother-of-pearl, brass, copper, papier mache and silver.
Befitting their status, the finest materials and craftmanship were used in the manufacture of tea caddies, emphasised by the complicated shapes which were variations on a square, rectangle or casket.
In 1784 the tax on tea was reduced from over 100% to 12.5%, and at the same time the monpoly on supply of tea by the Dutch East india Company was beginning to wane. As tea grew cheaper, there was less concern with safeguarding the contents, and as a result the of the tea caddy slowly declined. Most tea caddies avaiolable on the market were made before the mid 19th century.
A variation on the tea caddy is the teapoy, where a larger version of the tea caddy was mounted on a stem and base to form a small table.
These items are not for sale and the descriptions, images and prices are for reference purposes only.
A 19th century European silver tea caddy, cylindrical with close-fitted cover, relief-decorated with scenes of putti in scroll-bordered reserves; marked for the importer J.G.Smith, London 1898. Height 14 cm.
A Regency rosewood brass inlay tea caddy, circa 1820, William Batley London Holborn, of sarchophagus form with twin ring handles, the interior with two hinged lidded compartments, embelished with scrolling brass inlay throughout, with original Williams Bat
A sterling silver tea caddy, Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Company Limited, London, 1904 of knife box form, the lid surmounted by a cloverleaf loop handle, opening to reveal a gilt interior, engraved 'NM' 360 gms, 10 cm high, 9 cm wide, 9 cm deep. Property f
A George II pedestal footed sterling silver tea caddy, 1750 London, with maker's mark for Samuel Taylor, specialist caddy maker, of shaped bulbous form and decorated in the rococo manner, bearing a contemporary coat of arms and a crest to the opposite cart
English hallmarked sterling silver Edward VII tea caddy having a plain straight -sided cylinder shape body, a pull-off lid that acts as a measure, sitting on a flat base. Stamped 144444 Birmingham, 1910, maker Martin, Hall & Co condition good to fair, dent
A George III silver tea caddy by Solomon Hougham, London 1801. Of faceted oval form, the step moulded cover with ivory finial, the body with repousse bands bordering bright cut facets with ribbon and floral chassed banding, 597 grams, 16 cm width x 16.5 cm
English hallmarked sterling silver George II Bombe tea caddy. English hallmarked sterling silver George II Bombe tea caddy with scrolled floral etched & raised detail on claw feet & a 'Per Varios Casus' etched coat of arms. Some dents & a small pierced hol
A c.1900 fancy silver embossed tea caddy, oval form with a full encircling repousse band of figures in a landscape including multiple buildings, fine beaded borders, oval fitted cap lid. Import marks for London 1901. Weight 193gms.
A rare George III silver tea caddy of plain oval form, the flat oval lid with concealed hinge and oval urn form finial, crested with a griffin within an oval leaf decorated framed cartouche. Original lock, no key. London 1784 by Charles Aldridge & Henry Gr
A good Edwardian silver tea caddy in the Adams manner, oval form, the fitted lid with domed central section and ebony finial, all fitted to a conforming boat form tray, raised on compressed ball feet, fine reeded rims. London 1906 by Martin Hall & Co. Tota
An early 20th century silver tea caddy of serpentine rectangular form, the oval domed hinged lid with ivory finial, raised on compressed bun feet. London 1914 by S.W. Smith & Co. 11 x 8 x 10.5 cm Weight 287gms
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