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In the eighteenth century as today, making a good cup of tea involved a variety of equipment. First, boiled water was poured from a hot kettle into the teapot that held loose tea leaves. A pierced mote spoon was then used to stir the steeped tea. As an individual serving was poured from the teapot, a strainer built into its spout kept large leaf fragments from passing into the teacup. Similar brewing procedures have been used eversince, sometimes including specialized tea strainers. The Art Deco example seen here features a highly unusual combination of silver and Bakelite. The modern Chemex coffeemaker combined the paraphernalia of brewing and serving into one design. This stove-to-table convenience was effected through a flared top that could hold a filter full of grounds, and then be used as a pouring spout after hot water passed through the coffee and collected in the base. The wooden handle, like those on silver eighteenth-century coffee pots, serves to insulate the user’s hand from heat.
Mote Spoon, 1720–21
Henry Millar
(English, entered Guild 1714)
London, England
Lent by the Chipstone Foundation 1969.25
Eighteenth-century Europeans and Americans marveled at the pure whiteness and translucency of porcelain imported from Asia. The small handled coffee cup here probably came from a large set of delicate tablewares with Catholic-themed ornament commissioned by a western patron. The undecorated coffee mug, on the other hand, is made of thick industrial porcelain. It was made in the 1930s by the Victor Insulator Company, which manufactured porcelain insulators for power lines. (These caps were used to cover the intertwined ends of two lengths of wire atop an electrical pole). In response to the rapid spread of coffee-drinking throughout the United States, Victor used its porcelain recipe to create a heavy coffee mug design that remains ubiquitous today.