The miniature tea set embodies our fascination with the art and ritual of preparing, serving and drinking tea.
It reflects the culture of the country, the historical period and the unique tea traditions that it originates from.
The origin of the practice of making them is difficult to trace. The very small size of the items does make it difficult to have any manufacturing marks or insignia on them.
It’s thought that they originated in the 18th century. This is when salesmen used to carry these tiny tea sets as samples of the full size silver and porcelain tea services they were selling.
It became popular with children and soon toy-makers were producing them out of porcelain and silver for young girls. They were expensive to make. Most likely the children of the wealthy were the only kids to have them as toys.
Purchasing a Set
You can opt for an heirloom set that can be used for supervised play or a sturdy plastic one that can handle rough treatment.
Most miniature tea sets are meant for display only. Quite by accident I did manage to find a set that my nieces could drink out of in a local store.
The girls were happy and so was I.
Role In Society
Can you imagine the role they might have had in the education of a young lady of her time?
Presiding over the table and serving tea with the proper ritual was one of the hallmarks of a well-brought up young woman in high society.
While playing with these sets the young girls probably imitated their mothers and learned an important life skill.
Most of the early sets were manufactured in Germany, the top toy manufacturer of those times, or in England. In the 19th century, advances in ceramic production made them affordable to more people.
At the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855, miniature tea sets were on display. It was after this showing that they became a popular toy for the majority.
A set, just like the full sized equivalent, consists of a teapot, cups and saucers, a sugar bowl and a milk pitcher also called a creamer or jug.
Other items that may be included are a kettle, a tray, slop bowl, coffee pot, dessert plates and linens. They usually come in a special box or basket.