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.
Superb antique tortoise shell and ivory tea caddy, fitted with two sections, silver string inlay, engraved medallion to the top, all standing on ball feet, approx 16 cm high x 19.5 cm long, 12 cm depth
A Regency tortoiseshell, ivory silver strung tea caddy, circa 1810 the domed faceted top with blonde tortoiseshell cross banding, centred by a silver tablet, opening to reveal two lidded compartments, with ivory spacings between the lid and eight sided bod
A Victorian tortoiseshell veneered tea caddy rectangular with rounded edges, silver inlay stringing and vacant cartouche to lid, the interior with tortoise shell veneered lids, all raised on brass ball feet, (losses), 16.5 cm wide
A Victorian tortoiseshell veneered tea caddy. rectangular with rounded edges, silver inlay stringing and vacant cartouche to lid, the interior with tortoise shell veneered lids banded in ivory, 20 cm wide
A 19th century English brown tortoiseshell and bone mounted tea caddy the hinged lid and lower body with an ebony patterned bone border, above four brass ball feet, (corner decorations lacking), 16.5 x 13 x 11.5 cm
An early Victorian tortoiseshell tea caddy, circa 1830s/40s, of sarcophagus form with a plain white metal cartouche to the lid and a conforming escutcheon, with tortoiseshell veneer throughout with metal stringing, the interior containing lidded compartmen
A sterling silver and tortoiseshell tea caddy, 1894 Chester, with maker's marks for Cornelius Desormeaux Saunders & James Francis Hollings (Frank) shepherd, an oval straight sided caddy of tortoiseshell with a silver mount having a simple ribbed design to
A good George III tortoiseshell bowfront tea caddy, the flared pagoda form top with a small silver name plate engraved 'Sanderson', the front finely inlaid with mother-of-pearl chinoiserie decoration of florals and stylised building, plain three-quarter co
A good early Victorian tortoiseshell tea caddy, rectangular form, the mildly domed lid of hexagonal section, plain un-engraved rectangular top plaque and escutcheon, opening to reveal an ivory lined edge interior and two tortoiseshell covered compartments,
A Japanese tortoiseshell and lacquered tea caddy, mid 19th century, rectangular, with a lid inset with tortoiseshell and lacquered with a landscape scene, internally fitted with two canisters of similar construction, 21 cm wide.
A Victorian tortoiseshell veneered tea caddy, 19th century, rectangular with serpentine front, silver inlay stringing and vacant cartouche to lid, the interior with tortoiseshell veneered lids, all raised on wooden bun feet, 17 cm wide.
A Victorian tortoiseshell veneered tea caddy, 19th century, rectangular with serpentine front, silver inlay stringing and engraved cartouche to the compressed pagoda lid, ivory banded to the interior, all raised on wooden bun feet, 17 cm wide.
An impressive Regency tortoiseshell tea caddy of sarcophagus form, the stepped lid with ivory and metal stringing the body with chamfered corners, ring side handles, flower form metal feet, the interior with two tortoiseshell lidded compartments, space for
A collection of horn and tortoiseshell snuff boxes Early 19th century Including a sterling silver mounted hoof snuff box, 6cm wide; a sterling silver mounted horn snuff mull, 7 cm high; and a pear shape Sheffield plate mounted tortoiseshell snuff box, 8.5
A small tortoiseshell tea caddy, circa 1860, the sarcophagus shaped caddy with chamfered lid inlaid to the full exterior with tortoiseshell veneer and included within the twin lids also inlaid with veneer all raised on bun feet, 16.5 cm wide.
A George III tortoiseshell dome lid tea caddy (1738-1820) tortoiseshell, ivory, mahogany with two inner compartments, original lids and original lead lining. Box height 14.5 cm. Length 16.5 cm. Width 9.5 cm
A Regency ivory and tortoiseshell tea caddy, in panel led ivory and tortoiseshell and silver mounts with an inserted painted portrait miniature of a lady to the front, inlaid silver borders and escutcheon, the hinged cover opening to a lined interior. Widt
A Regency silver mounted ivory tea caddy, retailed by R. Lewis of St. James the fluted panel s inlaid with tortoiseshell borders and inset with an oval silver panel engraved with monogram Rh, some cracks and losses. Height 14 cm
A Regency tortoiseshell fitted tea caddy, with radiating sunburst panels to the bowfront, inset with a silver panel with engraved monogram 'MYS', the whole mounted on four silver ball feet, the interior complete with two covers verneered with lined tortois
An early 19th century sarcophagus form tortoiseshell tea caddy, the interior fitted with two lined compartments complete with tortoiseshell covers with inlaid ivory borders. Width 20 cm. Depth 12 cm. Height 14 cm
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