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Tea Bowls, Cups, and Saucers

The first tea wares used in Europe arrived from China with the early cargos of tea in the mid-seventeenth century and it was at this time that the word "china" entered the English language to denote all the dishes needed for serving tea and other forms of refreshment.

Early tea bowls were handleless and tiny, holding only two or three tablespoons of tea. They were usually about 2 inches high and slightly larger in diameter. Between the 1650s and 1750s the bowl became bigger and was referred to as a "dish" of tea rather than a cup. Designs for chinese tea cup decoration were sometimes sent to China, while some Chinese porcelain was decorated at the English pottery. The handle was eventually adapted from the English posset cup.

Chinese potters had not originally made saucers for the little bowls but these began to appear and became a standard part of tea equipage. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, these were much deeper and were, in fact, used for drinking from, the hot tea being tipped into them from the cups.