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Cup Plates

From the “Talking Tea with Bruce Richardson” Video Series – Episode 8


0:00: – hi. i’m bruce richardson tea master for the boston tea party ships and museum here today to share with you one interesting bit of tea history from america’s past.

0:00:33 – this is one of my favorite tea sets from my collection. it is a cup and saucer from the victorian age and it was made in england from one of the great britain’s oldest porcelain factories, the royal worcester factory.

0:00:48 -and as you can see it has a very beautiful handle and very unusual because it is a butterfly. well all great Britain was all abuzz about anything that came from japan in the mid 1800s.

0:01:04 – and of course one of the dominant motifs that was found in a lot of decorative ware that came from japan was the idea of a butterfly and porcelain makers quickly picked up that beautiful motif.

0:01:18 – you can see that is a large saucer and its much larger than contemporary saucer that we would find in a cup and saucer plate today.

0:01:29. well there are some stories from the victorian age and may have heard of these where people didn’ tquite know how to drink tea. they would sometimes take their hot tea and pour it into a saucer and then let it it cool and then serve it from a saucer probably not something that you would see on downton abbey. But we have stories where that may have happened.

0:01:54 – well if that did happen where do you put your cup after you have emptied your tea into your saucer? you can’t put it on bare wood because it would leave a circle. you need a coaster.

0:02:04 – and so porcelain makers invented cup plates. most of the original ones were probably made out of porcelain. here we have glass ones and i’ll show you that once you finish pouring your tea in to your saucer, you would put your cup onto a cup plate to protect the wood.

0:02:21 – another story about the invention of the cup plate cup plate comes from fact we’ve talked about before is that tea cups have not always had handles. you know the original ones that came from china were small tea bowls and when you would set that down there was not a true saucer so you’d have a coaster or cup plate to protect the wooden furniture as well.

0:02:48 – well one of the great souvenir crazes of the united states came out in the 1800s with the invention of pressed glass. and as you travel from boston down to cape cod the first town you come to on the cape is the beautiful little town of sandwich and there you find the museum for the sandwich class factory which was there over 150 years ago they have what i think is probably the largest collection of cup plates in America.

0:03:21 – now i have a few to show you here because when people traveled around the always would bring that souvenir as with washington’s image on it like this one. or if you went to someplace like natchez mississippi here you have a cup plate with an image from natchez. if you visited thomas jefferson’s home monticello here if you have a cup plate with monticello on it.

0:03:42 – now here in my native kentucky one of the the great names from our state was henry clay.
and henry clay’s home is just an hour from where i am today and it’s called ashland. if you visited, you would take home a cup plate with henry take home a cup plate with henry clay’s image on it.

0:04:09 – now if you would like to start collecting cup plates they’re still easy to find you’ll see them an antique stores all across america they’re not very expensive and sometimes they’ll even be labeled as butter plates but let me tell you they’re not truly butter plates they’re actually cup plates so start your collection of cups plates and uh… and see all the different places in america that you can visit at tea time

well until we see you in boston go forth in make good tea!

Bruce Richardson Profile Picture

Bruce Richardson

MSN calls Bruce Richardson "A leading tea expert involved in tea's American renaissance for over 30 years." The native Kentuckian is a writer, photographer, tea blender, and frequent guest speaker at tea events across the globe. He can often be found appearing on television and radio talk shows, or as a guest speaker at professional seminars such as World Tea Expo or China Global Tea Fair. He is the author ...

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