Although it is difficult to quantify the amount of tea drunk by Europeans in the early years of its consumption, it is clear that imports increased dramatically. In England in 1678, for example, it has been estimated that imports of just under 5000lbs ‘glutted the market’ but between 1700 and 1768 annual consumption rose from about 20,000lbs to almost 6 million lbs.
With the establishment of tea drinking in Europe came the need for new vessels and furniture for its preparation and service. The craze for Chinoiserie wares that spread across Europe during the 1600s led to great demand for Chinese and Japanese ceramics that at that time could not be replicated by European potters. The Chinese hexagonal teapot below (CCN 194), decorated with scenes depicting the eight mythological horses of Mu Wang, an Emperor of the Zhou dynasty (1023-983 BC), was one of the thousands of pieces of oriental ceramics that were imported into Europe during the 17th century, many of which were designed specifically to appeal to the Western market. Chinese porcelain was admired particularly for the purity of its colour, its durability and its exotic decoration. ‘Top’ or ‘over’ handles such as this assumed their basic form from Chinese wine pots and were common during this period.