Summer is the perfect time to take a break and to take a little time to smell the roses and really concentrate on the beauty of our days. A favorite way for me to do that is to brew a pot of tea, and then sip it slowly from a beautiful antique or vintage tea cup in the garden. More than just a hot drink, brewing and sipping tea is a celebration of every day life. Even when the temperature outside is summery, tea is the drink most Europeans drink every afternoon. Today let’s talk about COLLECTING ANTIQUE TEA CUPS.



Drinking tea encourages thoughtful, peaceful thoughts, it brings a sense of peace and calm to an otherwise hectic day. The cups you drink from make a huge difference! It’s why most tea cup collectors collect; they not only cherish and appreciate the fine porcelain cups that are works of art in their own right, they know that a cup of tea will always taste much better from one!




The cup you drink your tea from will make a huge difference in how much you enjoy it, how aromatic the tea is, and how exceptional it will taste.


Have you ever made the very same tea as a day in the past, with the same amount, brewing time, and exact same tea pot, but somehow it’s not quite as good, and it’s a little flatter, and disappointing?


It’s the CUP, not the tea!



These days we treat all our coffee mugs, tea cups and or glasses for tea the same.  A lot of times, we tend to choose a cup for it’s size, or just grab one that’s easy to reach.


Cups are not really interchangeable!  The material they are made of impact the taste of tea, especially for the more aromatic specialty teas that are a little more complex.

If you want to get a luxurious, enjoyable cup of tea each time you drink one, you need to really focus on the kind of cup you are drinking from!



If you want to get the best out of every cup of tea you drink, switch your thinking from what’s big or easy, and concentrate on the style of cup and what it’s made of.

Porcelain is the top choice of every tea connoisseur.  Teacups have been in use in China since 220AD, but the teacups we use today originated in Europe in the early 1600’s.  At that time, the Chinese sipped their tea from small porcelain bowls without a handle, but since the upper class Europeans most often used silver or pewter serving ware at that time, it was obvious that a different type of “container” for the hot liquid needed to be designed to prevent burning fingers.


When porcelain began being manufactured in Europe, delicate cups with handles were designed to drink the hot and quite expensive tea from – and the teacup was born!




There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.
-Lin Yutang




What does a cup need to have or be to bring out the best in your tea?

Not just any cup will do, the cup needs to be non-porous so that it doesn’t interfere with the blossoming of the aromas and flavors, and it should not “leach” anything from the cup into the liquid.


It also needs to keep the tea to your preferred temperature, it should keep it hot – but not too hot to drink.  It’s why most tea drinkers love the large bowls of traditional tea cups, not only does it allow the “bouquet” of the tea to develop – {think of the wide glass for red wine} – it allows the tea to cool in “layers” first at the very top, then gradually, as you drink more of the tea, down to the bottom.



Drink your tea at the right temperature

Most of us don’t really think about how the cup handles heat, but it’s  a very important part of choosing a cup to drink from.  The wider bowl is for a cup of tea that you want to savor and drink quite quickly.  The more narrow tea cups are meant to keep the tea warm longer, which became a preferred shape in the 1920’s and onward for many.


These cups still have the right shape and material to keep the tea aromatic and perfectly wonderful, but they allow for a slower enjoyment, perhaps while reading a book.



It is thought that the need to keep tea hot is the origin of “tipping”  – the traditional English tea cup for black tea was a thin, wide porcelain cup, because it allowed the tea to have wonderful aromatic flavor and scent. But the thinness of the porcelain and the wide  bowl meant that the tea would cool quickly.


The  tea gardens of the late 18th century in London were a cultural phenomena where families and unchaperoned women could gather outdoors to enjoy a cup of tea together. Legend has it that because it was imperative that the tea was brought to the outdoor tables piping hot, a little box with a slot and a sign T.I.P.S. – “To Ensure Prompt Service” – became the custom. Customers could slip money inside as they were seated, and the waiter would speed up the arrival of the hot tea from the small kitchen. That pre-payment for service became our tipping system that we have today for good service.





Tea and tea time reached its height during Victorian times. Well-to-do ladies “had” afternoon tea, and gave each other beautiful tea cup and saucer sets as a luxury present for bridal showers, weddings, and as hostess and birthday gifts.

There are many avid tea cup collectors all around the world! At FrenchGardenHouse, we have shipped our exquisite tea cups to clients all over the world.  I try to have a variety of tea cups and saucers, but will admit that these days the old, the rare, the exceptional and the “just because they make me smile” cups are the ones I seek out.


Cherished for their reminder of a more genteel time, and perhaps sweet memories of tea and cookies, collectable antique tea cups are quickly gaining popularity among collectors.

Driven by a passion to acquire another irresistible specimen, collectors are avid pursuers of antique teacups of high quality. Our more rare and exceptional antique teacups tend to sell quickly, and no wonder! Who doesn’t LOVE cookies, tea time and beautiful porcelain?



Here are a few tips to help you begin a collection of your own.




1. EDIT.  Choose cups that speak to you personally. Don’t feel you have to collect every kind of tea cup, unless you want to.  There are so many different kinds to chose from. Each has its own charms.

2. CHOOSE A COLOR PALETTE. Tea cups come in all colors. Choose a color scheme that fits your home decor, and your collection will infuse your home with the colors you love.  Then again, I have clients who just collect cups that they can’t live without, or cups that make them happy.  One collects only pink cups, one collects only cups with flowers. Whether your style is traditional, or more contemporary in feeling, there are teacups that will fit the mood!

3. CHOOSE WISELY.  Take the time to learn about luxury quality cups, and what they look like.  There are reproductions out there, most cups and saucers are marked, although not all of them.  I have sold antique French porcelain cups without a mark, there are even Sevres quality cups and saucers that come without a mark. Buy from someone you trust {I hope it’s me!}  Some wear to the gilt is acceptable, after all these cups were used for over a hundred years if they are antiques. But nothing too distracting, A high quality antique tea cup can cost from below a hundred dollars to several thousands, depending on the quality, rarity and manufacturer.


There is a tea cup set for almost every budget!





Antique and vintage Porcelain and bone china is more delicate than your everyday dishes. While I encourage you to use them on a regular basis, if you are careful with how you wash the cups and saucers, they will last a lifetime or more!

  • Never put them in the dishwasher, the hand painting and/or gilt trim will be damaged.
  • Always hand wash with a mild soap, non-lemon scented is best.
  • Do not soak your antique and vintage tea cups too long. It may cause a problem with the glaze, or gold trim.
  • Dry your cups and saucers right after you have washed and rinsed them.
  • Make sure that if you have used lemon slices in your tea cup that you clean or at least rinse your cups quickly.
  • Store in a cabinet behind glass when possible, not only does this look beautiful, but there is something about storing porcelain behind glass doors vs. closed doors that is good for it.


I have unpacked some gorgeous tea cups for all of us!  I’m so excited about them, especially the most rare ones. I was able to find some extremely rare examples of early 1800’s French Old Paris Porcelain cups with hand painted portraits, each cup is a work of original art! But there are also cups that are affordable {because as you probably guessed, those Old Paris cups are for serious collectors only, or for you if you have been very, very good.}






The Secret Lives of Antique Silver TEA STRAINERS


How to Make the PERFECT POT OF TEA








And…because it’s never too early to plan this one……




I hope you have enjoyed this post on tea cups. This week, I plan to drink at least one cup of relaxing tea in the afternoons as our family gets ready for our youngest girl to marry her Prince.

I have my dress, my shoes {which I hope I can wear all evening long!} and I just found the perfect vintage evening bag that I’ve dressed up with an antique paste buckle and vintage chain. I wish you a beautiful week!

I’ll probably not blog again until next week, as there is so much to prepare for. Mostly preparing myself not to go into the ugly cry during the ceremony, if I could delicately sniff into an antique handkerchief, that would be good! Wish me luck!


à bientôt


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