Use of a Silver Tea Service

by Dian

Question: I've inherited a silver tea service, or maybe it's a coffee/tea service, I'm not sure. There are two pots, one larger than the other. Are they for different types of tea or for tea & coffee? There is a kettle with a built in burner (which has not been used). I assume the kettle is for hot water, but why/how would you use it,since the tea in the pot is already brewed? There is a tray, a creamer, a sugar bowl and a slop bowl. Obviously, I can't carry the tray fully loaded, so I assume that to actually serve, some of the items are placed on the tray and some to one side for ease of service. Does it matter what goes where? What is the slop bowl used for, and where does it go when setting up?

I've had tea parties before, but it was just with simple teapots, and it was a little more straight-forward. Thank you for your guidance.

Answer: Thank you Dian for your inquiry!

From what you describe, you have inherited a complete tea set that includes a coffee pot as well. Most tea sets will come with a coffee pot since it is common to offer both beverages.(This does not mean that you need to do so, it's optional.)

The kettle would be used if you are having a large gathering, you could have a supply of hot water on hand for making more tea and you wouldn't need to wait for the water to boil. You would not need to use it for a small gathering, and it would not go on the tea tray. It would be kept on the buffet or in the kitchen.

You don't mention if the kettle is electric, or does it have a 'chimney' down the center of it for charcoal? If it has this you may have an older Russian Samovar, newer ones are electric.

Most tea sets are arranged on the tea table, bringing the tea pot to the tray once it is all arranged. If you have a tea cart, the tray can be loaded up in the kitchen on the cart and then wheeled to your desired spot. If you are setting a buffet table, you would put the tea at one end and the coffee at the other. Cups, spoons, sugar and cream(milk for tea)would be placed at each end with the coffee and tea.

Arrangement of the tea set and tray is usually fairly simple, taller items like the tea pot and coffee pot are put towards the back, shorter item like the creamer and sugar bowl towards the front.

Just for clarification, you would not carry a tea tray around a table like a waitress. The tea service is place on the table, whether it is a tea, dining or buffet table,and the hostess or her helper will serve it out from there.

The slop bowl is for discarding tea leaves/bags after you have brewed a pot of tea. The slop bowl can go on the tea tray if you have room and you will be making more tea right where you are. Otherwise it can stay in the kitchen or where ever else you will be brewing tea.

I hope this helps you to understand your silver tea service more so you can enjoy it to its fullest potential! If you send me a picture of it, I will include it here.

Your Tea Party Guide

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The Tipper
by: Cathy

Your pot with the burner underneath is called a tipper - at least that is what we call it. It is for the hot water that you would then pour into a teapot to make your tea.

"coffee" pot
by: 1201SLD

More history on the Coffee Pot!

The taller pot in the full silver tea set as we know it was was not originally intended for coffee. The taller pot was first used for chocolate, and that use prevailed in continental Europe long after it had begun to ebb in England.

The taste for and availability of coffee in Europe was almost two centuries behind the introduction of tea and chocolate. When coffee was introduced, it was stronger than our breakfast coffee and was taken small cups, what we would now call espresso or after-dinner cups (demi-tasses.) Until the 20th century, tea, chocolate, coffee, and sugar were all expensive and often scarce imports.

kettle and slop bowl
by: 1201SLD

More history on the slop bowl and kettle!

The tea service (crockery except among the rich, who used porcelain or silver) and its various pieces were designed long before our modcons like tea bags, hot water heaters, and kitchen ranges.

The full silver service on a tray ("waiter") would be prepared by the butler, who delivered the heavy loaded tray to the lady pouring; lesser staff did not have ready access to the household's supplies of tea or sugar, which were expensive luxuries.

Traditionally, the tea in the teapot was brewed from loose tea leaves held in an infuser* which performs the same function as a tea bag. The resulting (undiluted) tea would be stronger than most people would drink.

After some tea had been poured into the teacup, to perhaps a third or half full, the kettle would be tipped to pour hot water into the tea in the tea cup to achieve the relative strength of tea desired by each tea-drinker, such that the teacup would then be half or two-thirds full; then was added the milk or lemon but not both, as the lemon juice would curdle the milk. Sugar, usually in cubes or loaves (twice the sugar of a cube) would be added either at the beginning or at the end of this operation.

Throughout, the lady serving the tea, with one hand, always held the cup and saucer off the table while using the other hand to pour and add water, milk, sugar, lemon. The cup and saucer never touched the table or tray until after it was passed to its recipient. It was considered very poor form to pour into or add to a teacup which remained on the tray or table.

Before adding new tea to a cup, the dregs or cold tea were poured from it into the slop bowl; only then was the cup replenished with hot tea, etc.

* ( The infuser is generally a small mesh or perforated metal container or covered spoon that holds tea leaves, in varying sizes to steep single or multiple servings at once. Common shapes for infusers include spherical, conical and cylindrical... The infuser is placed in a cup or pot of hot or boiling water, allowing the tea to brew without loose tea leaves spilling into the pot or cup. A rod or chain is commonly attached to the container of the infuser to make retrieval from the pot or cup easier. Infusers with large holes may not catch all the leaves, requiring the use of a tea strainer to remove the remaining pieces.

Silver Tea Service
by: Anonymous

Thanks for your insights. I'd be glad to post a picture, but can't figure out how. It is a very pretty set, probably from the 1940s. The silver kettle is on a stand with built-in alcohol burner (that has never been used, and I'd be afraid to use it too). It pivots on the stand to pour.

The "slop bowl" is also silver, and I'm not going to hide it in the kitchen. I'm not sure there would have been any tea bags, as the tea in the pot would have already been brewed. Although if there is hot water in the kettle, I guess one could serve coffee, brewed tea, and offer loose tea or tea bags.

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