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Modern-day tea drinking (part four)
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The interwar years were a particularly innovative time for tea wares. After the First World War, more and more potteries focused on catering for the mass market. Companies such as Poole Pottery, Shelley and Susie Cooper created affordable tea sets with simple shapes and stylized decoration. Clarice Cliff produced some of the most memorable art deco tea sets. Perhaps her most wacky design was the Conical Early Morning Set, whose solid handles were virtually impossible to use comfortably. But what is lacked in practicality, it made up for in humour. Cliff’s use of vivid colours, bold and often exuberant shapes and patterns were extremely popular, particularly between the wars. This was also the heyday of novelty teapots. Designed with fun firmly in mind, they came in every shape imaginable – from racing cars, trains, tanks and aeroplanes to Donald Duck, Humpty Dumpty, comical human faces and quaint country cottages.

Modern-day tea drinking (part four)

First produced in 1937, the Sadler Racing Car teapot is one of the most famous novelty teapots ever to be designed. Early models feature the number plate ‘OKT 42’ (OK tea for two).

Modern-day tea drinking (part four)

The English firm Wade, Heath & Co., who produced this Donald Duck teapot in the 1930s, was famous for its ‘Disney Wadeheath Ware’ featuring popular cartoon characters.

Some novelty teapots were specially designed to offer an added practical benefit. Such was the case of the Cube Teapot, designed by Robert Crawford Johnson in 1919. Particularly suited for use on ships, and popular on liners such as the Queen Mary, it was guaranteed never to roll over during rough seas and was also easily stackable. Other innovations included the Simple Yet Perfect (or SYP) teapot, featuring an ingenious design with a built-in infuser shelf. The teapot was laid on its back for brewing. Then, once the tea leaves had infused for the necessary amount of time, the pot was placed upright: the leaves remained separate from the brewed tea, and therefore the tea never went bitter. Meanwhile, Lyons devised their own two-spouted teapot so that tea could be poured faster.

Modern-day tea drinking (part four)

The Simple Yet Perfect teapot: its ingenious design allowed the tea to brew and then be separated from the beverage, thereby stopping the drink from ever becoming bitter.

By the mid-twentieth century, such inventiveness started to spread into the electrical goods market. Although first produced in 1933 by the firm Goblin, the Teasmade had to wait until after the Second World War to make a real impact. It combined an electric kettle with an alarm clock enabling tea drinkers to wake up to freshly brewed tea. Like many other electric devices that became commonplace in the 1940s and later, such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners, the Teasmade helped replace the once almost ubiquitous housemaid of the pre-war years. By the 1960s, around 300,000 Teasmade sets were being sold each year in the United Kingdom; in the 1970s they came with an in-built radio.

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