Ask Tippy: How Can I Start a Teacup Collection

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Ask Tippy is a series where you get to take control of the blog, and ask me questions about tea! Do you have a question about tea types? Tea preparation? Teaware? Ask away! I received the following question from twitter friend Carolina:

Q. Tippy, I just love the look of mismatched vintage teacups but I have no idea how to start collecting them. Do you have any advice?

A. Well my dear, you have come to the right place! Being a teacup, I have tea ware friends far and wide that I’ve met in all sorts of places. I think the first thing you should decide is if you’d like to go modern, vintage, or both. If you’re looking for vintage pieces try auctions, garage sales thrift stores, and antique shops. Look for estate sale listings too. Flea markets are also a fun way to shop for teacups. There are usually quite a few vendors with inexpensive tea ware. Online auctions are also a great way to browse, just make sure you look carefully at pictures and read all the descriptions. Used tea ware can often have chips or cracks and if you are unsure based on the pictures given, be sure to ask to see more photos.

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You’ll have to decide what ‘look’ is right for you. Are you interested in fancy china cups, sleek art deco styles, or something else? Do you like minimalist style or something more ornate? There is also an entire range of art pottery out there that you can find on Etsy or even Instagram. Or perhaps you like all of it! We certainly do. Kat’s collection of teacups is always growing. I feel like such a proud mother to our colorful brood!

Another tip is to look for teacups while you travel. Many cultures drink tea and have unique tea ware. For example, you can get tulip shaped glass cups in Turkey, and yixing clay cups in China. Kat likes to pick up pretty bone china cups in London, especially in the antique markets there. Or even just around the US you can find various potters working locally that make beautiful tea ware. Kat was in a little beach town and came across a local potter who makes beautiful tiny teacups. Keep your eyes open while you walk about town! Bigger cities will of course have even more to choose from.

Once you start collecting, you can display your cups anywhere you like. Kat likes to keep hers in a china cabinet, to make sure her little niece Camille doesn’t accidentally break one of her favorites. But she also pulls out her mismatched china cups and saucers for tea parties. She has every day useable art pottery for special tea sessions alone or with friends. And of course she has me! Her trusty friend and tea addict. But I’m one of a kind, of course!

Dearies, do you have a burning tea question you’d like answered? Tag me on twitter @TheLovelyTeaCup!

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Crafting With Tea Cups

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My lovely tea friends, do you enjoy crafting? Kat loves getting creative when she has a bit of free time, and she’s always off puttering around the house, looking for ways to re-use old objects. It’s fun and also environmentally friendly to bring new life to an old or broken object.

 As difficult as it is for me to look at a broken teacup, I realize that instead of chucking the old dear into a storage box or even the garbage (heavens!), why not take that beautiful cup and make it into something useful again? A cracked or broken cup may not be able to hold tea, but there are so many other uses for them!

 Candles- it’s fairly simple to create a teacup candle! If you have a cup that’s missing a handle, or even just slightly cracked, this is a great use for the little dear. You can find helpful instructions on how to make your own cup candles here and here.

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Jewelry organizer- place teacups on your bedside table or dresser to hold things such as rings and bracelets. Kat will put small earrings on the saucer as well, which makes them easy to find. Kat has a friend that placed a whole bunch of cracked and mismatched teacups in a drawer, and they act as a beautiful organizer. One cup is for hair pins, another for hair ties, one for rings, and one for lipsticks. It’s a great way to organize a desk as well- cups are the perfect size for paper clips, loose change, erasers…the possibilities are endless!

A little planter or seed starter- Kat plants herbs in her smaller teacups for a kitchen windowsill garden. She uses smaller cups as seed starters for her garden herbs and vegetables. They are just the right size to let a seed sprout and grow large enough to transfer to the garden. It’s also easy to carry the cups outside without making a mess.

Kat has become a little obsessed with terrariums lately- they are little lush worlds of moss and succulent plants. A small teacup is a fun addition to a terrarium. Kat has a large glass globe that fits one of her smaller demitasse cups. She put rocks and moss in the cup, and surrounded it with little succulents. It’s really quite a stunning display. I love looking at it and imagining little fairies flitting around and having a picnic!

I’ve been hunting around pinterest and found even more clever ideas! I especially like the idea of a teacup bird feeder! Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a teacup in your garden as a special place for birds to rest and eat? I love the idea of watching birds happily pecking food out of a teacup! Be sure to visit my tea crafts pinterest page for this and other ideas.

Drinking Tea In Bowls

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Dearies, it seems everywhere I look these days, people are posting pictures of food in bowls. Noodle bowls, rice bowls, breakfast bowls with all sorts of healthy ingredients. Dearies, I’m proud to be a cup that is of the larger variety- you can wrap your hands around me as you sip, just like a bowl! Kat loves using both hands while she drinks, she says she is comforted by cradling the warmth of the tea in both hands.

Did you know that drinking tea from bowls dates all the way back to Lu Yu’s The Classic of Tea, written during the Tang dynasty? Lu Yu actually lists a few different styles of tea bowl and prefers the beautiful celadon glazed bowls best. Tea cups did not get handles until the 1700s!

For all you matcha lovers out there, do you have a chawan? A chawan is a Japanese tea bowl. It’s used in the Japanese tea ceremony, and is essential in making a traditional matcha. Chawan are wide, with enough room to whisk up your matcha. Matcha bowls can range in design and be quite minimal, or have beautiful artisanal pottery glazes. Kat and I often get lost in online searches for handmade tea bowls. I often have to stop her from purchasing every one she sees! If you study the art of the Japanese tea ceremony, you’ll learn all the proper ways to handle the tea bowl, and how to present it to the drinker. It’s quite beautiful. You can learn a little bit more about the tea ceremony in my previous post here.

Kat thought it would be funny to have an ‘all bowl’ brunch for her friends. Perhaps a yogurt and granola bowl, fruit bowl, and of course a bowl of tea! A bowl of fruity tea-infused sorbet would be a lovely ending to the meal. Have you tried making any of the ice creams or sorbets in my post about DIY tea ice cream?

Dearies, isn’t it comforting to have a large, satisfying bowl of tea? Please don’t tell anyone I said that, the other teacups in the kitchen might start to ignore me! Don’t get me wrong, I do love my handle. But sometimes it’s nice to just have that warm bowl nestled in your hands.

How To: Collecting Vintage Teacups

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Most of you know that I’m a vintage teacup. I’ve traveled around the world with Kat’s great Aunt Char, and have steeped countless cups of tea over the years. Kat and I have a special bond, and she often says she loves using vintage teaware because it’s beautiful and holds so much history. Kat has quite a few vintage teacups, and I’ve noticed her friends often chatting about where they go for their own vintage finds. Dearies, apparently us old ladies are become quite trendy these days. Thrifting for teaware is quite fashionable! Oh, I feel so chic and important when I overhear Kat’s friends talking about their favorite teacups.

Kat often goes to local thrift shops to look for teaware. She visits regularly since every week she finds something new. It’s an inexpensive way to hunt for treasures. She will also hit antique stores when she’s traveling. Most towns will have at least one, and you never know what you can find! Flea markets are also a good option if there is one nearby. Once the weather warms up, garage sales are also a fabulous way to pick up vintage cups for a steal.

Kat also hunts for vintage cups online, and will lose track of time while she browses various auction sites. I occasionally get a bit jealous, but I know I’m her number one cup! I also find that the vintage cups she brings home have the most amazing stories to tell. I met one cup that was hidden away in a basement for years before finally ending up at the thrift store. She was a little girl’s favorite cup before she was boxed away. I’m so glad Kat was able to rescue this lovely teacup!

Kat loves using her vintage tea cups for parties. The table just looks so much better with the dainty mismatched cups and saucers! It also makes the event fancier. She keeps teacups out for the décor, too. They add a bit of character to dull corners and brighten up any shelf or table. Some of Kat’s friends use their teacups as candle holders and vessels to store their jewelry. Kat uses cracked cups as seed starters and herb planters.

If you’d like to enjoy pictures of beautiful teacups of all shapes and sizes, pop over to my Other Lovely Tea Cups Pinterest page. Happy collecting!