Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Collecting Tea Paraphernalia

By Christina VanGinkel

I have collected tea paraphernalia for as many years back as I can remember. When my friends in school were drinking soda, I was shopping for the best tasting loose tea leaves I could find. When I got married and my new husband started each morning with a robust cup of coffee, I tried it, its similarities to tea somewhat appealing, but in the end, I returned to what I considered the more polished drink, tea. With tea, there were choices in flavors, in how to brew and steep it, and the best part, the accessories were, in my humble opinion, better to collect! I still enjoy the occasional cup of coffee, and when I discovered rich, aromatic vanilla flavored beans, I have to admit to lusting after a cup with just the right amount of cream added. Pressed to choose a favorite though, tea for me is the winner. That it provides for my need to collect something is a bonus! For if for nothing else, it provides me with a good reason to collect teapots.

I have teapots shaped like snowmen, single cup serving sizes decorated with flowers and apples, a tiny antique metal one found in an out of the way shop in the mountains of Colorado. My brother actually bought it for me, after I walked through the store and somehow missed it amid the piles and stacks of treasures from days long gone. Complete with the wear and chips of age, I sometimes wonder if it was not carried across the mountains in some pack by horse or mule.

Besides teapots, I also collect tea balls and strainers, teaspoons, tea caddies, a limited number of blue and blue trimmed teacups, and a few other assorted pieces relating to tea and the drinking of it. Some of my favorite pieces include a ceramic container made to hold tea bags, decorated with a tiny tea cup on its top, which doubles as the handle to lift the lid off when it needs refilling. The tea bags are dispensed out of the bottom and I use it every day. Another favorite is a tabletop sized water fountain that is molded to look like a pile of teacups. One more favorite is a porcelain tea strainer that was a gift from my sister-in-law. On vacation a few years ago, we walked through a tiny gift shop in downtown Buena Vista Colorado, where I admired the fragile piece. Later that day, she surprised me with it as a going home gift. It is a perfect example of the simple pleasures that drinking tea evokes for me.

If just collecting teapots, or teacups, is more to your liking, go for it. As with any collectible, buy what appeals to you. I just happen to love anything that has to do with the making and drinking of tea, including tea itself, from loose tea, to tea bags, and more.

Collecting tea paraphernalia is interesting to me because many of the collectibles associated with drinking tea are reminiscent of days gone by. I love to collect antiques in general, so many of my tea collectibles fall into that category. For those who might prefer new items, there are also many tea related pieces hitting store shelves almost daily from which to choose from.

Besides those items directly related to the making and serving of tea, there are also items such as tea caddies and tea related advertising that may appeal to collectors of tea related items. While I have never collected such items myself, I am always looking for new pieces to add to my growing collection, and if I were to come across one or the other and found the piece to my liking, I am sure I would find a home for it amongst my collection.

A search at online stores for tea collectibles or on eBay for tea collectibles will also turn up quite a selection. I have picked up a few pieces this way, mostly pieces I had seen elsewhere but were out of my price range, I then shopped eBay for in hopes to find it at a better price. My favorite way to shop for additions though is to find them in antique stores and gift shops.

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