The term ‘caddy’ is derived from the Chinese word ‘catty’, a Chinese pound, which is a unit of weight equivalent to 600 grams. This is also the measurement by which tea used to be sold. The English picked up the word and started using the word caddy to mean a container for tea.
In the 1600s, tea was first introduced to Europe and England from China. At this time, it was extremely expensive so could only be enjoyed by the wealthiest in society. The earliest tea caddies that came to Europe were made of Chinese porcelain, decorated in blue and white colours, and were similar in shape to a ginger jar. Until the 1800s, they were called tea canisters rather than tea caddies.
18th - 19th Century
Only the rich and wealthy could afford to buy tea in the 18th and 19th centuries. Because tea was such a prized possession, you would hire an expert craftsman to create you a beautiful and ornate caddy that could protect the tea.
They would craft a unique tea caddy made from wood, metal, tortoiseshell, pewter, brass, or copper. The most popular materials were woods such as mahogany and rosewood. Most were box-shaped and were decorated with intricate motifs. They were delicately inlaid and had ivory, ebony, or silver knobs.
Tea caddies were all the rage, with Chippendale and Hepple White being two of the most renowned tea caddy designers and makers at the time.
Dimensions 12.5w x 14h cm
Colour Blue and White
The household tea caddy became a status symbol. It was a treasured piece in many upper-class homes. Tea caddies were expensive and decorative so that they could fit in nicely with the other decor in the room.
They were highly valuable to their owners, and, as a result, many caddies had locks so that they could be kept safe. The lady or mistress of the house owned the key to the tea caddy so that she could keep its contents secure.