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Teacups from all over the world

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground

Tea has not only a long and complex but also collective history. From China to USA it has been embodied across multiple cultures for thousands of years. Tea originated in China 3rd century AD to be used as medical drink. During 16th century, tea was presented to Portuguese priest and merchants in China. Then it was shipped from China to the Netherlands and then sold to several European locations and finally it became popular drinking in Britain during 17th century.

All around the world tea drinking is widely held attraction, therefore tea cups, which can be used to serve tea, are an integral part of this attraction and a necessity for tea drinkers. According to researchers, before teacups were used, much of the Eastern world drank tea directly from small teapots. In course of time, tea cup designs changed as different cultures embraced tea.

CHINESE de Commande:

Small, with no handle and held by the thumb and forefinger at the lip and base of the cup, slightly conical and has thin walls. Proportions of height and diameter are variable but they tend to be equal. Also very useful for stacking. Belongs to the period of 17th- 18th century. Generally made of porcelain in China but sometimes in Japan and Europe. As a color there are two kinds of colors: light blue and white.


Early EUROPEAN Tea Cups:

Bigger than Chinese’s typology. Generally diameter is bigger than height. Shapes are diverse and complex. It has a single handle. Unfortunately with all these changing had lost the stackability of them. They had been used since middle 18th century until now. Walls tend to become wider. In Europe most often used silver or pewter types. It is possible to say briefly a great diversity of shapes and techniques are included in this typology and the variety is one of the main characteristics of this models. According to another source, tea cups were first introduced 17th century by the French, but in this culture was used wooden tea cups. In Britain, drinking tea became an attraction of royalty. Therefore cups were created from porcelain ornate designs and colors such as hand painted red roses with pale pink.


After World War II, tea cups became a part of history. A lot of items with the marked of "Made in Occupied Japan” had been exported. The "occupied" mark was regulated only through 1947 and had disappeared entirely by 1955.

MODERN tea cups:

Have handles and radical shape changes in search of stackability (mostly straighter lines and geometrical shapes are used). They had been used since middle of 20th century until now. Walls become thicker and objects become heavier. In this period hotels and restaurants take a part in the development of typology.

In East Asian countries, like Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, there is Chinese de commande style made of porcelain with no handle small cups. However Tibetan tea cups are two different kinds: silver and wood. Silver ones are partially or fully lined with silver both on the inside and at the base. Wooden cups were from a time when daily utensils were made by hand.


In Myanmar, tea is not only for drinkable but also eatable thing so they are using tea plate or shallow lacquerware to serve it and they call it Lahpet.

In India, tea is served in a red tiny rough-hewn Indian clay cups, lightly fired, unglazed, always with a bit of grit at the bottom. The funny thing about this cup, you can feel free to throw your cup out of window after drinking your tea.


In Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, other CIS and ex-USSR countries tea glass-holder is a traditional way of serving and drinking tea. Tea is served in a glass cups and this is the reason to need that kind of holder to use. It is called as podstakannik and mostly made from nickel, silver or gold plating.


In Middle East countries tea is served in a glass, (generally) without handle small cups. Especially in Turkey there are typical small tulip-shaped glasses which are usually held by the rim.

In Europe, cups especially made in Czech Republic ones are valued as much as Occupied Japan. Their designs are as same as British ones as I mentioned above. In general Europe designs of tea cups are same for the most part.

In United States, tea culture is different than other countries. Ice tea and bag-tea are more common here. Because of this mugs and big glasses are more useful for serving tea.

In Brazil, mate is the traditional drink. Not only in Brazil but also in Uruguay, Paraguay, southern Brazil. Although to a lesser degree but in southern Chile, the Bolivian Chaco, Syria and Lebanon as well. Mate is served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabash gourd. The straw is called in some Latin American countries (and also known as bomba, bombija or masassa). The straw is traditionally made of silver. Modern, commercially available straws are typically made of nickel silver, called alpaca; stainless steel, or hollow-stemmed cane. The gourd is known as a mate or a guampa (there are same specific names in Brazil as cuia or cabaça).

Gizem Guclu


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