When Cultures Meld

Victorian English Tea Caddy with Orientalist Hammered Brass Decoration (LEO Design)

Pure cultures can be fascinating.  Even more interesting, in my opinion, is when cultures blend—creating a wholly-new and sometimes beautiful creation.  Architecture, food and even people are often very alluring when they express the features of multiple, melded backgrounds.

What could be more English than a tea caddy?  Sure, many other cultures valued, stored and safeguarded the precious substance.  The English, however, took the safekeeping of exotic tea leaves to a new and beautiful high—for the rarity and very high price of tea made it (at one time) a commodity to keep under lock and key.  Tea was a rare and treasured import; people travelled great distances, fought and died in the process of procuring it.  Infinite wealth was likened to “all the tea in China.” With this in mind, it is understood why tea caddies were treated like jewelry boxes.

In the early days, a European tea drinker would not have divorced his cup of the hot drink from its far-away Asian provenance.  Tea was foreign, exotic even.  Sometimes the “ceremony” of tea-serving would accumulate Orientalist affectations—like Chinese themed tea pots or Japanese ceramic tea cups.  The English brass tea caddy, shown above, has taken its Orientalism from the Middle East—with Islamic-inspired tracery like one might see on a Topkapi screen or a mosque wall.  It was made around 1900—long after tea had became cheaper and affordable to the larger populace (thus no lock and key).  But its Moorish design gives it an exotic and handsome look—a blending of the cultures which still appeals (to me) today—and it is useful in many ways besides only storing tea.

Please come into the shop to see the tea caddy for yourself or call us for further information.


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