Tea tales across the table

regency teapoy

You can be the most avid tea drinker ever, someone who derives orgasmic pleasure indeed from every sip of this nectar of life pouring through your mouth and into the soul at just about any time throughout the course of the days that make up your life, but if you happen to not be drunk on this beverage of immense leanings beyond what it tastes like to you, sorry, not sorry of having to dislodge you from your audacious self proclaimed identity of being a tea lover. For one to identify as a true tea enthusiast, or connoisseur if your are so inclined, it isn’t just the tea of the teapot or the teacup for that matter that they need to be more than well versed with. It also is the teapot itself from which this elixir of spouts and pours into your cuppa of comfort that needs to capture your senses in equal measure. And why just the teapot though? By extension it also are the myriad many manifestations making up the whole tea brewing and relishing ceremony in as much relaxation as in indulgence that needs to assert as much as a command over your chaiesque enough conscience.

The teapot indeed is the integral most accompaniment of the tea experience. For, without a pot to steep the tea in, how would you possibly entail yourself this divine luxury on earth itself? But it still is only one aspect of the whole diversive dimensions that this beverage of all versatility bubbles out as in all its rich aroma and earthy intonation from the whish of the keen kettle. The other aspect of this enjoyment only a cup of tea can deliver and no other, no matter how somewhat akin ‘of its kind’ such ‘other’s might profess to be in all amusing ignorance of course, is rested again in as different assertions of their own definite significance. But the one we are comple’tea’ly devoted to lauding today might be, by our own admission, somewhat ‘lesser’ in prestige as its counterparts when it comes to being a staple entity dominating the entrenches of elaborate tea ceremonies, or more realistically simplistic servings of the cuppa of warmth. Shakespeare might not have seen much issue when he proclaimed out and loud ‘What’s in a name?’ but this exploration of what forms the crux of the discussion today begs to differ indeed and not even in the difference of name but instead in a single letter! Teapots might be universally known and commonplace in their contribution to the making of tea every damn time any soul in the world craves for their cup in exclusive individual preference, but the same cannot be said about another essentially tea infused identity diverging from the pot in just its final flourish. Commanding attention unlike a trait of its being, at least corresponding to the present day and age, is the teapoy that might even occur as a spelling error, er a typo, to quite a many of us.

But this replacing the last of the ‘t’ with an ‘y’ is no anomalous encounter within the vast tapestry of tales brewing inside the teapot. Teapoy indeed is what it is, though languishing somewhere in the murky corridors of fame despite its striking similarity with the teapot, ironically just not to the last t. And interestingly enough, the teapoy is no ‘apparatus’ lending itself to the making of tea in any way. It instead is a piece of furniture, and quite an unique, intriguing one at that as well. Essentially a three legged table, the origins of which in etymology are strictly Indian even when its making is not exclusively so, is this fascinating enough piece of antique furniture, perhaps not ancient as such given its assuming of form only sometime in the mid 18th century. Derived from the Hindi word teen paya that which translates as being three legged and that which makes this certain table standing indeed on all threes, the teapoy perhaps had nothing to do with tea at all when it was first made by the British, spurred of course by their now famous fascination with teas. It was only when these tables came to be manufactured in India by the country’s then ruling British folks that the essence of it in characteristic and in purpose intertwined endowing upon it a name still lesser encountered in the more groovy terrains of a world accustomed to the sophisticated properness of the fours rather than the quaintness of the threes.

Despite such erroneous association with tea, it is fascinating that the teapoy did indeed come to encompass widely what is now but a vestige of the whole tea experience, drawing from its prominence in one time as luxury indeed in the real sense of the term. In its origin sometime in the 17th and 18th centuries when tea as a commodity was scarce and expensive and therefore affordable only by the rich, both in its drinking for relaxation and its preparation as a show of status, the teapoy distinguished itself as a table that had specific some tea-ey functions effectively elicited out of it. Back in the day, tea used not to be the commonplace beverage that it is at present and especially in Europe where the raw material for the beverage was imported into from its regions of origin in Asia, it was exotic enough to create an exorbitant buzz. Not surprisingly therefore, rich households that could afford this pricey enough brew of immense charm already resorted to locking up their supply of tea in specific containers known as tea caddies. These tea caddies however were not any ordinary enough container, they tended to be at least as flamboyant as the contents guarded within their decorative enough expanses. It was the most ultimate of these tea caddies that evolved thereon to become a piece of furniture in its own, that which came to encompass instead the identity of teapoys.

But while tea caddies indeed had been as individual entities adhering to the many a changing demands of the tea world, it was such versions of them mounted on a three legged table that came to be most popular in their functionality. Teapoys essentially are such teenpayas with a box attached to their prominent three pedestals. A table that harboured therefore all the provisions of making and serving tea in the Regency era England, teapoys were an indispensable facet of the tea time ritual at every gentlewoman’s house. With the lady of the house yielding the lone key that kept the tea safely tucked away in the caddy, it was obvious that the making of this expensive beverage was also a task reserved as exclusively for her. Attribute it to the newly emerging fad of afternoon tea that though stood the test of time to command as much global popularity even today or indeed a partaking of tea in all its amazing amassment of wonders, but serving tea to guests was indeed an expression of high status. So what emerged out of this dual dimension of tea being expensive and high priority at the same time was the teapoy upon which servants would carry all essentials of the tea making process to the hostess, who would then lend herself to the preparation of it in front of her guests. And why just brewing and steeping the tea, teapoys also functioned as effectively as a serving table for the guests on which the tea cups were laid out for convenient partaking of the elixir, eliminating therefore also the prospect of possibly nosy servants having access to all details of the gossip doing the round at these tea centered gatherings.

It however had been not just the convenience of them neither the appropriateness of their setting that made teapoys the then revolutionary indeed essentials of the tea world. Also associated with this whole importance that these three legged standings upon which all things tea came to rest was the smouching illicitness that came to taint this treacle of the titillating. As tea became more widely commercialised as a commodity, the business profits accruing out of its sale was sought to be maximised by adulterating it with additives. This was what the tea slang of smouch came to mean, tea leaves secretly blended with fillers that obviously came to affect the rich quality of it. So rampant was this adulteration of tea that even necessitated the enactment of parliamentary laws banning outright such addition of inferiors. Whatever that might be though, the ‘tradition’ of tea being blended by the hostess in front of her guests to ensure the highest quality of it and the corresponding significance it brought upon on the teapoy had been another remarkable trail in the evolution of tea culture particularly in England.

In its self supporting, self containing basis that became therefore the quintessential mode of storing as well as serving tea, the teapoy became as intricately embroiled within the tea world as the teapot that encompassed, and does still encompass a veritably significant portion of it. The easily prone to be misspelt assertion of the teapoy in its rather close link to the teapot that all boils down to just a final alphabet however translated also in its as easy proneness to a loss in relevance. As teas became more commercially produced and less expensive, the status of covetion was restricted to its pursuit in refreshment and perhaps even leisure, that which helped indeed to make it more commonplace as well, to the extent that it became a staple enough drink for consumption at virtually any time of the day. The teapoy almost died out thence, since no longer it was needed to guard the treasure of tea in all its exquisite mannerisms. Once ubiquitous to the regular tea scenes that did up many a fine evenings of the Regency era England, wherefrom they came to also take up space elsewhere in a world drunk by then on the very idea of tea, the crafty, artisanal indeed and definitely charming uniqueness of the teapoys became instead the antiques dotting the tea trail as well as inhibiting the furnishing flair. But as a once pretty and pivotal entity without which partaking of tea could never be the experience it happened to be, the onus indeed rests with all us tea lovers of the world to at least recognise the identity of this tea exclusive dominion of all things in one.