29 March 2011

A Teacup for Tuesday: Royal Stafford Fern Posy

pattern name: FERN POSY
maker: ROYAL STAFFORD -- Burslem, Staffordshire, England
circa: 1950s
manufacture: bone china; light brown transfer with hand-applied colors; gilt edges and handle details; standard size teacup (holds approx. 6 oz) in a “leigh” shape

In Spring, the poet saith, a young person’s fancy turns to love, and that may well be true. While turning ardently toward love, however, some young persons might happen to gaze upon a teacup and saucer such as this one, and in so doing life is forever improved. Spring! Tea! Love! The combination is almost too powerful to contemplate... but we are made of stout stuff, so we’ll do it.

Our locale has recently been soaked silly, and we were beginning to lose faith in the coming of Spring at all. In the nick of time the Sun burst forth, Hallelujah, restoring not only our hope but our sanity as well. Sane, composed, and ready for tea, I went looking for a saucer and cup that could express my inner joy; Fern Posy is what found me.

Some of you may recall the weblog entry of yore in which we described a Farmlet Favorite pattern called Hedgerow -- same light brown transfer color, same palette of hand-painted enamels, same cup and saucer shapes -- Fern Posy is Hedgerow’s cousin, surely, and they certainly look swell next to each other on our tea table. Absolutely LOVE-ly.

Again the teacup is designed for right-handed drinkers, who get to see the nifty nosegay {detail can be seen at left} while pouring scented liquid down throat -- poor lefty Trixie misses this pleasure, but fortunately her imagination can conjure up the image if desired.

What, you ask, is a "leigh-shape" cup? It's the one that looks like a perfect egg with its top carefully excised -- so nice to hold, so nice to drink from; my personal favorite.

Springtime is also linked to PARIS by the poet, so we recommend that all poetical people try this tea from our buddies at Harney and Sons Fine Teas... {see left}

Thank Providence for Spring!! Happy tea to you all,
xo, Dustin

23 March 2011

Tea Ware on Wednesday: A Mid-Week Milk Jug for Spring

item: large creamer or small sauce boat
maker: GROSVENOR (part of Copeland-Spode) for Sheraton Designs; Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England; circa: 1930s
made of: bone china; multicolor hand-painting plus gilt over purple transfer design

Here is a recent addition to our collection of Spring-heralding tea ware-- just looking at the hand-painted flowers makes us want to set up a tea table under a blossoming tree. 'Round here it continues to pour down with rain, however, so the tea-under-tree must wait (the blossoms, alas, probably cannot); in the interim Plans Get Made, menus are drafted, teas are selected... so we shall be good and ready when the sun bursts forth again to dry us out and warm us enough for outdoor tea-taking. Please let it be soon...

Our friends at ThePotteries.org (such a handy website for identifying Staffordshire china marks) tell us that the mark you can see in Picture Number Two dates from the 1930s or so. This piece (and undoubtedly others like it) was commissioned by Sheraton Designs and made by Grosvenor, one of the best-quality potteries in and around Stoke. Grosvenor began life as Jackson and Gosling, changed its name, moved a few times -- this is par for the course with Staffordshire potteries from Victorian times onward -- and was eventually rolled into Copeland(s), which itself became part of the Spode family. Items were made with Grosvenor marks from the turn of the 20th Century until the 1950s.

The hand-painting is delicate and detailed, as the Third Image shows... the base design is a purple transfer (less common than, but as attractive as, magenta transfer), itself very delicate, over which red, pink, purple, green, and teal were applied by steady hands holding very thin brushes. Gold is minimal -- only a scribble and outline on the handle and a dash around the rim  -- but it is enough. This piece is full of red and purple energy!

Honestly, Trix and I cannot agree on the intended first use of this beautiful vessel... I believe that it is probably a small sauce server which has been separated from its underplate; Trixie says it was always a creamer. No matter, for we love to use it as a fat milk jug (since cream is off the menu at present, more's the pity) and it brings bunches of cheer and delight to our table.

On another day I will show you more of our Grosvenor/Copeland(s) stuff, which is in another palette altogether but is equally high-hat-gorgeous. Our thanks to the kind people who could bear to part with these treasures so that we could adopt them.

Greetings and best wishes for SPRING (now if it would only stop raining...!!!),
xo, Dustin

19 March 2011

Happy Birthday to Us

Tea of the day is TSAREVNA BLEND, one of Trixie's concoctions, and we invite you to raise a cup of absolutely any kind of tea in honor of every single person born on any day of the year (that includes yourself, of course). Happy Birthday to Us!!! And many moooooore...

Baises (that's French for kisses, oui),

15 March 2011

A Teacup for Tuesday... and Shamrock Shortbread

Salutations teacup lovers,
Today I want to show you some delicate hand painting, the kind that nearly no-one does anymore, certainly not in the quantity it was done a hundred years ago when rows of skilled (but not-that-highly-paid) people wielding fine brushes dabbed enamel colors onto English bone china... Don't know what the name of this Royal Worcester pattern is (lacking, as we are, the proper guidebook with all of the pattern numbers identified -- a sad admission), but it's definitely from the same era as our beloved Puritan pieces and, in fact, looks mighty fine on the table next to them. Bright aqua bands at the outer edges, Kelly green rims and handle swashes, lots and lots of pink rose bouquets, all above a mighty pink transfer that can't fail to make a person happy to be handling such finery. Absolutely gobs of decoration on the saucers and inside the cups, and check out the little bouquets on the cup faces! Seems quite decadent to our modern eyes; must be accompanied by rich cakes and LOTS of whipped cream on something or other, followed by a rose jelly (gelatin) and champagne. Ooh la la.

Lest we be seen as People Who Ignore St. Patrick's Day, my pal Trix chimes in with the following:

Shamrock Shortbread
Not actually shamrock-shaped, but green-tinged from pistachios... Adventurous bakers could certainly make three-leaf or four-leaf shapes, but we are lazy and would rather devote our energies to eating...

Mixing the dough:
Cream 2 sticks (8 oz) of unsalted butter with a half-cup of regular or superfine granulated sugar until smooth and light. Blend in one teaspoon of vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, stir together two cups of all-purpose flour and two cups of ground pistachios. Add this flour/nut mixture to the butter/sugar mixture in three batches, stirring gently but thoroughly until all the flour mixture is incorporated into the butter mixture. Do not overmix, as this tends to exhaust the flour gluten (rendering the cookies tough).

Remove the dough from your mixing bowl, gently pat it into a log shape; wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and then put in a plastic bag and seal. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes or longer (can be refrigerated for a few days, or frozen for up to a few months (if well-wrapped and sealed).

Making the shamrocks:

Unwrap the still-cold dough and, with a sharp knife, slice into rounds of about an eighth-inch to a quarter-inch thickness -- if you want to, you can roll the uncut log in more ground pistachios before slicing, in which case the dough should be allowed to soften a little so that the nuts will stick.

Arrange on ungreased baking sheets with some space between cookies. Bake at 325°F (*) for about 15 minutes, until cookie edges start to brown. Cool cookies on racks, then eat (!) or, when completely cool, store in airtight plastic containers or tins, separating layers with waxed paper. All shortbread freezes very well after baking.

(*) Aga baking (4-Oven model): approx. 15 minutes on sheets in middle of Baking Oven (no cold sheet required); you can also make cookies on a piece of foil laid on the Simmering Plate: approx. 10 minutes for a few cookies at a time, turning them over gently halfway through cooking time.

A recommended tea? This one...

Here is Master Romie, waiting for his teatime guests to arrive...

Happy Paddy's Day to you all,
xo, Dustin

13 March 2011


How can we not feel it deeply? We used to live in Japan.
Pouring our best wishes for survival and eventual triumph into virtual gallons of fresh drinking water, which we send out now to every struggling person in Japan... and elsewhere...

Love, love, love, and peace, peace, peace,
Trixie and Dustin

08 March 2011

A Teacup for Tuesday: Booths Dovedale

pattern name: DOVEDALE (rust/cobalt)
maker: BOOTHS -- Tunstall, Staffordshire, England
circa: 1910s
manufacture: high-quality molded paste earthenware; red transfer with hand-painted colors & gilt

Dovedale is one of the boldest and brightest Imari-style patterns in English china. Ours is the rust/cobalt version (there was also a brown/cobalt version) with its large blood-red flowers and cobalt swashes plus gilt outlines over red transfer, and near-complete coverage of the pieces with the design. Inside the teacups is a single large red flower (seen if you hold the cup in your right hand to drink from -- always favoring the northpaws, aren’t they?).

On some pieces the cobalt blue is nearly black, and edge gilding is relatively heavy. The design even wends its way to the outer edge of teacup handles (see the detail picture below). Note the beautiful ruffled saucer edge -- common to Booths and, later (after a merger) Ridgways earthenware patterns.

Some Booths patterns (such as Washington, or select versions of their Willow patterns) were intended for family meals or other informal use, with unpainted edges and simple patterns (some in monochrome transfer); Dovedale is at the opposite end of the spectrum with its lashings of gold and pools of cobalt and red. Very celebratory indeed. I think this pattern strikes a balance between too-gaudy and too-refined, which means I love it utterly, but perhaps for some it is, well, a bit much. I imagine the hand-painters dipping chubby brushes into vats of color -- it ends up looking very opium-den-ish, with occasional color bits sneaking outside the lines... A smoked tea feels about right for this one.
Imari-style patterns in English tableware continue to be popular, but the zenith in manufacture was about a century ago when there were dozens upon dozens of patterns vying for attention. I will show you more from our collection of Imari-style patterns as the weeks roll on, and at some point will come up with a “compare & contrast” post so you can see how well many of these patterns mix together -- perhaps near Independence Day, when the reds and blues carry all sorts of meaning for tea drinkers on both sides of the Atlantic.

An aside: Please remember to set your clocks ahead, dear tea drinkers, on Sunday 13 March... Spring forward!
xo, Dustin

06 March 2011

It's a New Dawn, a New Day (so sez Jennifer-svelte-Hudson, and we believe her)

Here we are again, settling into another home on the internet -- thought Trixie was done with moving for a while, but nooooo, she said we would be happier hosting the whole shebang right here on Blogger. Let's see, shall we? We shall. Thank you exceedingly much for finding us at what used to be called tdustinfannings.blogspot.com but is now simply http://www.theteadrinker.com.

Where's the webstore? Sleeping. But as you know, sleepers awake, and when they do some of them start webstores at that groovy place called Etsy, which is what we plan to do when we feel the urge to sell stuff again (look for us there in a couple of months -- we have such lovely POSTCARDS you will faint, and other nifty notions). Announcements via the usual channels (i.e., blog posts right here) will be sent. Follow the blog, request email messages, heck you can just call us on the phone and we will be so happy to tell you what's going on.

In the meanwhile, please watch us get back into the bodacious bubble bath of blogging. Look in on TUESDAYS beginning 08 March -- yes, that's right, in exactly two days -- and on Tuesdays thereafter for bunches and piles of very nice tea words and pictures. Please participate, too, because the more you chime in, the better it feels (studies prove this). Join our conga line... Yum pum Pum pum Pum PAH! You got it.

Yay!! We are so glad that you are here with us.
All of my tea-stained love (except that which is reserved solely for Trixie),
xo, Dustin