20 August 2011

Creating a Stir: spoons for tea {part one of several}

It's not all bone china and porcelain around here, no sirree -- if that were the case, we would have to stir the moo into our tea with our delicate fingers, which (if the tea is hot enough) would be painful, so fuggeddaboutit! Besides, any chance to lug out the silver chests and choose from among Trixie's treasures is a chance worth taking, so let's...

At left is a pair of unrelated, yet equally attractive, small spoons -- one silverplate (the shinier one), the other sterling silver (with twisted handle). Spoons of this size (shorter than 5 inches) are often called demitasse or coffee spoons, since the moniker teaspoon has already been taken by our standard place-setting spoon.

The silverplate spoon is in the Cardinal pattern, which was patented by Rogers and Hamilton in 1887. It has a leafy scroll on the handle, and a column of embossed ovals on the neck which are bookended by small crown-like flourishes. It's a very neat late-Victorian pattern, one that is definitely looking ahead to the Twentieth Century.

The sterling spoon, on the other hand, shows the maker's hand -- on the back of the neck is a mark "ATK 830.5" -- 830.5 giving us a clue that this is older Scandinavian sterling (American sterling almost always bears the number 925, or the word "Sterling," or both). I haven't been able to find out anything about the maker of this spoon yet, but it sure is fun to stir my tea while searching... Take a peek at the bottom image, which shows the back of the spoon handle-tip where the owner (or a pal) hand-pricked initials with what appears to have been a needle... I believe the letters are "G. S." Well, dear G.S., thank you for taking such good care of your twist-handle spoon, because I really enjoy using it in the Twenty-First Century... By the way, a twisted handle gives added strength, besides looking really, really awesome.

A tip to those who love silvery, shiny objects but may be new to scouting: a silverplate piece will weigh more than a sterling piece of the same size, because the base metals -- the blended metals onto which the silver coating is "plated" -- are heavier than pure silver. Vintage sterling often has a duller finish, or almost a "blush" on the finish, vs. new or very good-condition silverplate which has a truly white-silver shine -- this is because sterling is softer, and gets a lovely patina of small scratches which create a hazy glow (ooh!).

Care instructions -- you know Dustin! -- please HAND WASH always, especially older pieces. Wash in gentle suds and towel dry right away. A couple of other tips: do not leave silverplate pieces in SALT or ACID for very long, as the plating can corrode; and use your silverware because loved silver is happy, shiny silver.

Sterling can be quite expensive (price is often calculated by a combination of metal weight plus the intricacy of the piece/fame of the maker), but silverplate usually runs cheap because  a) people don't like what they can't throw into the dishawasher, and  b) badly-worn silverplate is all too common, with base metal showing through, particularly on the backs of spoons and on fork times.

You know what I would love? I would really be jazzed if you would take a picture of your favorite spoon-for-tea and post it on our Facebook page! Yes, please. And if you do, Trix and I shall send you a teeny, tiny present. Absolutely.

Until soon -- blowing you a tea-stained kiss,
xo, Dustin

13 August 2011

Second Saturday Sipping Salon: A Couple of Cups

Today I feel like sharing pictures not of ONE teacup set but of TWO -- in part to emphasize how grateful both Trix and I are for the tea-stained camaraderie you bring here, and in part because you may not have seen at least one of these sets before, in which case I hope you will enjoy the chance to see something delightful and new.

Sometimes it's nice to sit in solitary reverie with one cup, one head of thoughts, perhaps one handicraft to occupy the hands when not drinking from the cup... and sometimes it feels ever so much nicer to lay a second place at the tea table, or on the picnic blanket, or next to you on the famous monument steps... just to know that you are not alone in your lifelong quest for Great Tea Experiences... Who says both sets must be the same? A multi-place table setting with matching dishes does indeed have an elegance, an organization about it that can't be beat; if, however, your taste takes you to the realm of qurikdom now and then, come along and mix it up with the best of 'em.

Today's examples are by two of the most venerable houses in British ceramics history: Dorothy Perkins by Copeland Spode, and Kutani Crane by Wedgwood. The D. Perkins design is a magenta transfer on white bone china; every leaf, flower, and decoration that is not magenta transfer was applied by hand with delicate strokes of tiny brushes, including the apricot lustre enamel on the scalloped edges. This is a mid-20th Century set.

The Kutani Crane, meanwhile, is a polychrome transfer -- a very, very well-done assemblage of multicolor decals, if you will, with the only hand-applied color being the dark brown edges and handle accent. This pattern was recreated from an earlier design and was made by Wedgwood from 1971 through 1998. This cup shape is called Leigh, and it reminds us of a perfect egg.

Different techniques, different feel to each set, but both are wonderful to see up close and to drink from (especially if Trixie makes the tea that goes in them, because she is what the English call a dab hand at the tea-making). These are not flimsy pieces, they are made to last, and -- if you keep them well away from the automatic dishwasher! -- can be used often and enjoyed, as we plan to enjoy them, for decades to come. (Go Stoke!!)
The last image shows how we make best use of our sets! With tea-stained late-Summer good wishes to you all,
xo, Dustin

11 August 2011

Bling for the Blog, or Trixie Designs a New Logo

Gosh, what a Summer! In addition to having tea in the garden (often), writing weblog posts (less often), and cleaning up the office (far, far less often) there has hardly been time to acknowledge the passing of the season. And yet... Trixie, in her role as Tea Maiden and Chief Designer of Stuff, managed to squeeeeze in time to make us a brand-spankin'-new logo, which you can see up there at the top of the page, and at left. What do you think?

It's quite a different style for us -- we usually mine the woodcut and engraving archives for our art (in fact, I have been chasing Trix around the office with one such groovy old image in my hand for the past month) -- but it's a new era here at The Tea Drinker, and we thought a new look would help us to remember that.

Trix says that the curlicues on the big T remind her of steam rising from a cup; and that the different angles of text, and the circle-within-circle design, suggest the Enthusiasm with which we Infuse... she's so imaginative! Oh yes, it's also supposed to remind people of a passport stamp (presumably because we are going places!)... What I say is: well done, Tea Maiden, now let's sit down and have us a cuppa and a treat; all of this thinking and proofing has left me parched.

I raise my cup to YOU, lovely followers of our humble weblog, with extra-potent thanks for your constancy, participation (both right here and on our Facebook page), and kindness -- and if you, too, are planning great new things, we salute you!
xo, Dustin

p.s. -- have you visited our friend TeaWeatherGirl yet? I know she would love to meet you!

04 August 2011

Thursday's Thirst: He said it first

 My, my, that's a fine description of a tea drinker if ever there was one!

I could not have said it better myself.
xo, Dustin