For 'Tea with friends' blogger, tea offers more than taste
By MARIANNE THOMASSON
Angela McRae likes to sip tea, but it’s not just about the taste of the tea or the delicate teacup.
Each cup and sip have sweet memories of a friend.
“If I could keep only one teacup in my collection, it might well be a Welbeck chintz teacup from Royal Winton,” said McRae. Chintz pieces are identified by the all over floral pattern.
“I first learned about chintzware in the pages of ‘Victoria Magazine’ years ago. I loved the cheerfulness, the overly-floral look — almost everything about it,” she said. “I say almost everything because I did not like the price of these newly-preproduced pieces which at the time was about $120 for the teapot and about $50 per teacup,” she continued.
“To my surprise, a dear friend who also loved chintz called me one day and said she’d come across the Welbeck tray in a local store for just $19.99. They had one more and she asked if I wanted it.
“You bet I did! I was like a little kid at Christmas when she came by with my chintz tray, because it was practically free compared to the retail price of some of these pieces.
“She and I got so into collecting chintz for a few years, we had a deal where we would call each other any time we had a chintz ‘sighting’ at a local store. In fact, we had a great routine of actually hiding pieces in the store until the other person could get there to see if she wanted it. She’d say something like, ‘I found a new chintz teacup and I left it under the white bath towels. They’re on the bottom shelf nearest the column on the far right of the store.’”
McRae continued, “She’d hide the teacup in the back, of course, so shoppers who actually looked at the towels wouldn’t accidentally break it. Then I would either buy the piece (which I almost always did) or I could put it back where it belonged. If we hadn’t been into teawares, she and I would have made great drug dealers.”
Collecting teawares, and teacups in particular, has made it easy for her when she is traveling and looking for a souvenir. She can almost always find something tea-ish to bring home.
“I’ve got one teacup that is brimming with happy memories for me because I got it last year while on a trip to Biltmore Estates. I hooked up with some of my fellow tea bloggers from all around the country — from Asheville, Kentucky and Detroit. We all had tea together at Chelsea’s Tearoom in Asheville. We had tea at the Inn on Biltmore Estate and we stayed at a great bed-and-breakfast where we all had tea together at breakfast. It was one of the best ‘girlfriend trips’ I’ve ever taken. And, of course, when we hit the gift shop, the most popular souvenirs for all of us were teawares” that remind McRae of her trip with those friends each time she sips from it.
“Finally, I want to tell you about a very special sugar and creamer set my husband and I received as a wedding gift. A dear lady we’d both known for years stopped by the paper one afternoon and had a pretty gift bag she said she wanted to drop off. Inside was the sugar and creamer set in the Sainty Pink pattern from Shelley. Shelley is very collectible, but I liked it even more, knowing this woman’s mother-in-law used to entertain with it when she held her bridge parties years ago.
“One day I was outside a co-worker’s office at the Times-Herald when I happened to pause and see one of the vintage newspaper pages that we have framed and hanging around the building. Would you believe, right there was the 1934 society column reporting on one of these very bridge parties where my sugar and creamer were used!
“These types of connections and friendships represented are really one of the main reasons I love collecting teawares.”
McRae is the hostess of the blog “Tea With Friends.” To reach her blog, click on http://teawithfriends.blogspot.com .