Tea Anyone? Nature in a cup.

I’m sitting here having a cup of tea in a bone china teacup covered with tiny shamrocks. I do not usually drink tea in a cup with a saucer. Trying to find room in the cupboard for a few dishes brought home from cleaning out Mom’s house, I counted 25 teacups taking up precious space, not counting the pink depression glass ones, or the ones in the Japanese tea set my great-uncle brought home from the war for his mom.  I’m pretty good at getting rid of stuff, I make a haul to the local second-hand/charity store at least every few months, sometimes twice a month.  The teacups, awkward to store and rarely used, seem to survive each purge.

IMG_7895Looking up teacups on the internet, Wikipedia has a pathetically short piece, given that humans have drunk tea out of cups for thousands of years.  Other web sites talk about how to tell if you have a cup of great value; there are lists of ‘creative’ ways to use china teacups; and suggestions of how to collect them. Collect them!?!?!?!  Do people still do that! Yes! There are teacups on eBay, prices range from less than $10 to $85 for a wide gold-rimmed Royal Albert yellow rose cup.


paper-thin, it’s amazing my great-uncle brought, or shipped, this set with a somewhat art nouveau white egret design home to his mom.

So….why do I keep them?


two of a half dozen or so tiny cups I collected as a child

Growing up, I had a small collection of miniature cups, a mini version of my mom’s collection. I liked my mom’s teacups and enjoyed getting to set them out on the occasions we used them. I had my favorites.

My grown up collection mostly just happened. A few cups are my maternal grandmother’s, two from an aunt, several were mom’s. Before those came into my life I did buy a few. One of my favorites is from an antique store in Canada. Some how this random, unintentional collection grew to 25!

Not all my teacups are vintage, four were wedding presents, matching cups to our dishes, but that was 24 years ago so maybe they are vintage now too!


a cup that matches our dishes, and a favorite one from Victoria, B.C., where you can still be served tea in a China cup!

I keep them because each cup is an ode to the beauty of Nature, a small piece of delicate floral art.  Some are a riot of bright, colorful flowers, gay bouquets seemingly pressed into the fine bone china.  Others feature just a few bold blooms, still others sprinkled with tiny blossoms. Some designs are elegantly simple, like a Japanese ikebana arrangement. Setting out just one cup is like putting a small bouquet on the table.

People take broken teacups and make beautiful pendants featuring the flowers, birds, animals found in the patterns. I can understand why.


an unusual wide top cup with ripples in the china and a cup made in England but title “India Tree”.

China teacups are passe, few folks under the age of 60, have any in their cupboards, most folks over 60 have given a lot away, evidenced by the number of cups in second-hand stores.  Mugs have replaced teacups, mom rarely used hers, though the day before she moved from her house a year ago we had tea in teacups and she chose a few favorites to take with her. They live in a box in her closet.

With the revived popularity of tea, perhaps china teacups should make a come back. They connect busy lives to the cottage gardens and meadows of a time when even the busiest of folks had time for tea.


a seemingly very old, and quite delicate, made in Japan cup

I’ll keep my cups for now, stacked in precarious Alice-in-wonderland stacks behind cupboard doors. On a gray winter day, I can peek in, see the garden in my cupboard, pick one, and have a cup of tea.

(If you thought this post would be about tea, a very good topic for a cold winter day, I apologize. That’s a good idea and perhaps a future blog!)


10 thoughts on “Tea Anyone? Nature in a cup.

  1. Lovely post. I also have my wobbly stack of beautiful teacups. When my mother died, my sister and I picked out a few of our favorites, and then all the nieces, granddaughters and close women friends choose one too. My mother loved to gather the neighbor and church women in for cake and coffee (served in her tea cups). She lived across from the church and as people were walking home, she would lean out the 2nd story window, and call out to them to “stop in for a cup of coffee”. Spontaneous chats were her delight. Time for a cup of tea. Date: Sat, 16 Nov 2013 02:10:30 +0000 To: marilynoe@msn.com


  2. Thanks for this wonderful thought. I just went to take a look at my tea cups. They are still there, safe and sound. I picked one out and made a cup of tea. I will use them more often.. It’s that time of life.


  3. The “old cups”, tucked in cupboards, unseen, are like old friends we rarely see….but always ready to cheer when taken out and dusted off! Have another cup of tea with your Emily! Fortunate you are to have a daughter who appreciates them! Not just a girl thing though, Mike gets our cups out for company, which we’ve little of these past years. Yes, one day we will have tea together….you can pick your cup!


  4. Oh Penney, How timely you are. I too have a collection from childhood, aunts and grandma. I love them dearly. They hang in my dish cupboard and pantry and these days get hardly a glance. But a couple of days ago, Emily served a guest and me in china cups. What a delicate ladies treat. Each one is like a garden of old friends. Thanks for this posting and the pictures too. I’d love to see your collection one day.


  5. Penney: Wonderful musings this morning. I’m passing them on to Momma and Ann. Just sure they will be smiling and nodding.

    Love you,


    P.S. LOVED the gingko leaves/banner at the head of the blog.


  6. I stand with you on tea cups. Of course I am over 60! I have beautiful ones & funny ones. A few cracked ones from friends. My granddaughter Sadie & I enjoy them. She’s learned how to make scones & we make our tea. Just got a tea pot at Serenity House thrift shop that we found together. A riot of flowers. all coated with grime from sitting on a shelf for years. I made it shine again. We were at the thrift shop to leave things off, but I usually do a fast walk through just in case something needs me.


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