History of the Tea Cosy (tea pot warmer)
I don’t think I ever saw a tea cosy in my life before moving to Europe. I mean, I am sure I passed one by somewhere along the way but its function, use and purpose never registered in my brain until I started noticing them more regularly in daily life. It is essentially a hat for your tea pot to keep the warmth in. How simple is that?
I even got to see a tea cosy in action last month at someone’s home. This is pretty exciting stuff if you are curious about why people use certain things to entertain, like I am.
Several cultures and countries are tied to inventing the tea cosies but the object’s documented roots rest with the British (at least from what I could find). The tea cosy dates back to the 19th century, when Anna Russel, Duchess of Bedford, popularized afternoon tea as a light meal before dinner and an activity to occupy the time of affluent women. Afternoon tea was often served in a garden where someone “mother” was tasked with pouring guests tea. You know what happens when things get rolling at a tea party and attention diverts from pouring tea- tea gets cold. With all the networking, chatting and gossiping going on, a cold pot of tea was surely a party killer. Partly out of the desire to keep tea/tea pots warmer longer (function) and the Victorian time period/custom of decorating and covering objects (fashion), the tea cosy was thrust into the limelight and became a part of afternoon tea drinking society.
I never grew up with this object in my home so I was rather curious when I saw it used in someone else’s. I started to do some research and it turns out tea cosies are not only everywhere, they come in all sorts of designs, colours, patterns and materials: The making of a great conversation piece- I can see it. Not only do some people cherish and inherit tea cosies as family heirlooms (with plenty of stories attached), but also, tea cosies can simply add colour, design and new flare to a table, over and above the function of keeping your tea pot warm.
To give you a glimpse into the world of tea cosies, in 2003, the UK’s Tea Council hosted a design contest and auctioned off several celebrity and fashion designed tea cosies from the likes of Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, Pringle and FrostFrench. Likewise, there are loads of books dedicated to the topic but none is as comprehensive as a wonderful book titled “How Tea Cosies Change the World” by Loani Prior (up for the Diagram Book Prize for the Oddest Title of the Year Award), Queen of the Tea Cosies. In it, she shares anecdotes and artistic, wild cosy designs.
If yarn is not your thing (I don’t think it is my thing- except as an appreciation for the craft), there are modern versions of tea cosies that might suit your/my taste such as the ones that I’ve found below (or you can view more on the Countlan Tea Cosy Pinterest board here)
Chime in on the blog or on our Facebook page- did you grow up using tea cosies? Do you use them at home today?