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Mote Spoons

From the “Talking Tea with Bruce Richardson” Video Series – Episode 6

Paul Revere and other colonial silversmiths were adept at making an English tea accoutrement called a mote spoon. Examples of these can be found in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Tea Master Bruce Richardson demonstrates how these long handled slotted spoons were used to remove floating tea leaves from a tea cup. Mote spoons also had long pointed handles which helped remove clogged tea leaves from the spout of tea pot. In later years, tea drinkers began using tea strainers. Silver tea strainers were a common accoutrement found on late Victorian and Edwardian tea tables. The strainer was placed over a tea cup to catch any errant leaves that left the tea pot. The wet strainer usually had a matching silver basin where it rested after use. This apparatus helped keep your tea cup and tea table tidy.


Speaking: Teamaster Bruce Richardson
Caption text provided by Google/Youtube “Automatic Captions”*

hi i’m bruce richardson teamaster for the boston tea party ships and museum.

how many of you recognize this relic from tea’s history? it’s a mote spoon. that’s mote spelled M-O-T-E. Not M-O-A-T like the water around a castle.

the word mote is an old english word basically meaning a speck or obstruction that is someplace it shouldn’t be

and we find it in the book of matthew with the admonition of why go behold the mote in your bother’s eye but you don’t see the beam or the log in your own eye

well the mote that we find in tea’s history is a tea leaf which might enter into your tea cup

because you see any english tea history tea is made loose in the pot and when you pour your tea sometimes an errant leaf might enter the teacup.

well, any good hostess would have one of these on her table with a slotted bowl that would demote the tea. simply remove the mote or the tea leaf

well also you see it had a very long pointy end

there was a purpose for that as well

many of you who have poured tea notice that sometimes the tea will clog the tea spout

well this was the original rotor rooter. the long pointy end was put into the spout and it was circulated to remove the tea leaves that obstructed the spout and made tea pouring very easily once again

well, when you come to boston you need to go to the boston museum of fine arts to the colonial section there and see the examples of mote spoons including … paul revere’s simple mote spoons a couple there in the collection that you’ll see on tea tables where he took a simple, beautiful silver teaspoon and punched holes into it and made his own little mote spoons for the people of boston

well the mote spoon gave rise later on to a victorian invention which was the tea strainer. some of you may have these in your own collection

and they did away with the mote spoon because as you know you just put the strainer on top of your teacup and then pour your tea through the strainer and all those wonderful holes catch the any errant tea leaves or motes and demote your tea easily and then you place it back into this wonderful little catch basin that catches any errant drips and keeps your table nice and tidy

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

*Please note that Google/Youtube “Automatic Captions” may not have captured the content of the speaker(s) on this video accurately. Please report any errors you find on this website via the contact us form.

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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