In China drinking tea is a pleasant and comforting experience with a long tradition of almost five thousand years. Korea, Japan and other parts of the east, soon learned about the calming and soothing flavours of tea. When Chinese trade with Europe began in earnest about five hundred years ago only the very rich could afford it, but as the demand increased the costs came down. Today tea is enjoyed by people all over the world. Even young children can drink tea, so long as it has cooled a little. Every culture has adopted tea and created a unique way to prepare and drink it, after water it is the drink of the world.
In Japan tea was consumed by the rich and powerful as a ceremony in special rooms with their most beautiful bowls from Ming and Sung dynasty China. The Zen monk, Sen no Rikyu, influenced the minds of some of the elite with the new idea of humility, modesty, and irregularity, to the way people thought of tea. He commissioned a local tile maker, Chojiro, to create tea bowls with these qualities for the ceremony. Chojiro discovered that by removing the bowls from the red hot kiln and cooling them quickly in the open air certain irregular qualities were achieved. The new technique was named Raku, meaning enjoyment or happiness. Raku became the favourite style of tea bowls in Japan and as a pottery it has been adopted world wide.
England was the major trader with China in the 17th century, and they admired the Chinese porcelain as the best pottery in the world. Tea and pottery came together to the English, however the idea of drinking from a crude bowl without a handle was not for them. They desired extremely thin and translucent cups of the purest white clays with decoration in rich cobalt blue. The Handle was created as a delicate way to hold the hot cup by pinching the thumb and forefinger together with the pinky finger pointing up when bringing the cup to one's lips. Teapots, milk creamers, sugar bowls, saucers, and silverware completed most tea sets in finer homes. The English preferred to add milk and sugar to their tea and often drank it in the afternoon between dinner and supper with sweet breads, jellies, and cheese.
In most Canadian homes today tea is brewed in a mug with a single serving tea bag, thus eliminating the need for teapots. Convenience and simplicity have become the rules when sharing this drink alone. The volume increased from the cup size to about ten ounces, and the handle has grown to hold two, three, and sometimes even four fingers comfortably. Although now it is in second place to coffee, tea is still a favourite to those with stomach issues, the sick, children, and the elderly.
I am a potter who loves tea. After forty years of making pottery tea sets this is my favourite, made from a very coarse reddish brown sculpture clay. The forms are thrown forcefully on the wheel with deep finger marks. The teapot has a sideways handle that is comfortable to hold and easy to pour. The cups, or bowls, have no handles so the warmth of the tea is cradled in the hands. I used a brown glaze all over and poured a red glaze dripping around the forms. The bottoms are left bare to expose the roughness of the clay.
'T' is a letter between the 'U' and 'S' and it looks just like a cross. A symbol to join or divide 'US', as Christ did say would come, The 'S' looks like a snake, a symbol of Satan, and the 'U' is in the shape of a bowl or cup. Is it a coincidence that in our alphabet sin and the cup of life are related by the cross? When we drink tea we can think of 'T' which every man who ever lived must decide the meaning of...