It’s Almost Tea Time at The Garden

Posted January 8, 2003 at 4:58pm

“Traditions in Elegance: 100 Teapots from the Norwich Castle Museum,” featuring rare and unique teapots from the internationally acclaimed Twinings Teapot Gallery at the Norwich Castle Museum in England, is coming to the Botanic Garden.

The exhibit, which will be on display in the Garden’s East Gallery from Jan. 16 to March 30, presents the history and evolution of the teapot and the social importance of tea drinking around the world — and especially in England — during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Visitors to the exhibit will learn the significance of the delicate equipment required by the Tea Ceremony — the hot water urn, teaspoons, sugar nips and porcelain teacups and saucers. Such accessories served as status symbols and provided an opportunity for individuals to reveal their wealth and cultivation. The British tea ceremony held an important place in the upper-class social life of the 18th and 19th centuries and demanded that certain rules be followed in the preparation and presentation of the drink.

The teapots on exhibit represent a wide range of techniques employed by British potters in decorating their wares, revealing to viewers the extent to which the teapot has evolved as a result of changing manufacturing abilities, societal conventions and styles. From molding and printing techniques to utilitarian and ornamental designs to neoclassic and romantic styles, the teapots of “Traditions in Elegance” present viewers with an aesthetically pleasing display of decorative art and, at the same time, an extensive history of Western artistic culture, according to a Botanic Garden press release.

Several educational programs are planned to take place at the Botanic Garden in conjunction with “Traditions in Elegance” in January and February. Sam Twining, author of “My Cup of Tea” and director of the family-owned tea company established in 1706, R. Twining & Co., will host tours of the exhibit and discuss the history and cultural traditions of tea (2 and 4 p.m. Jan. 17 and 18). Kathy Collins, gardener and herbalist, will host an herbal demonstration and discuss the characteristic tastes and health benefits of different herbs (noon Jan. 24). Philip Leonard of the National Gallery of Art will present a free lecture discussing the history and use of floral imagery as an enduring and popular decorative motif for teapots (noon Feb. 14). Organizers hope to attract younger children to its Teddy Bear Tea for children ages 5-7 (10:30 a.m.-noon Feb. 8) followed by its Tea for Two for children ages 8-10 (2 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 8).

Traditions in Elegance is organized by the Norfolk Museum Services, the Morris Museum, and R. Twining and Co. Ltd.