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Sugar Tongs and Tea Spoons

Sugar became popular in tea in Britain and the colonies, by the end of the seventeenth century. In those days, sugar was available in cone-shaped blocks that had to be broken before use. Every kitchen was equipped with cast iron pincers and Iittle choppers for breaking pieces off when needed. For use in tea, these smaller pieces were placed in a bowl and served into the tea cups and saucers with neat silver sugar tongs. The earliest of these were made in the form of miniature coal fire andirons, changing in the 1720s and 30s to nippers shaped like small pairs of scissors. By 1770, these were phased out in favor of more practical bowl-shaped tongs.

Teaspoons developed as the taste for sugar grew, and because early tea bowls from China were small so the spoons to be used with them also had to be small.They were made as miniature tablespoons, and remained small and light until 1800 when the French influence made them larger. They then reduced again in size from about 1870. Early spoons were highly ornate, bearing scroll designs, Prince of Wales feathers, leaf patterns, emblems, mottos, political symbols, coats of arms, and crests on the back. This fashion died out in the early 1800s and, from 1850, much simpler spoons became more popular. Today, teaspoons are usually available in sets of six and are often boxed with sugar tongs for use with cubed sugar.