Tea was introduced into Europe from China with the expansion of trade in the 1600s and was a great novelty to people used to drinking only beer, wine and posset - milk curdled with wine, ale or vinegar. At first, tea was advertised as medicinal and was supposed to cure everything from gout to various social diseases.
Tea, coffee and chocolate became popular in Britain in the first half of the 1700s. The earliest silver teapots, before about 1730, were pear-shaped. "Bullet-shaped", almost spherical teapots were popular from 1730 to about 1750 when the first British porcelain teapots became available. Silver teapots were rarely produced until about 1770 when drum-shaped, and later oval, teapots became popular. These remained popular until the 1800s when most teapots were rectangular.
Although tea was costly – a pound of tea cost £3 10s in 1660, a year’s wages for a maid – it became very popular, particularly as an after-dinner drink, prepared personally by the lady of the house.
Those who could afford tea usually also had the means to purchase silver, and by the end of the 1700s tea wares had become a major part of the silversmith’s trade. These practical objects remain among the most popular silver items with collectors today.