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.
Looking 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.
So….why do I keep them?
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!
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.
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.
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!)