When I’m feeling fancy or need a little extra sumthin’ sumthin’ in my life, I pull out one of my precious bone china teacups and raise it up to the sun like Rafiki holds up Simba. “Look upon this with wonder my loyal subjects!” My dogs do indeed look, but only long enough to reestablish that the human is crazy and then they move on.
What Are Bone China Teacups, and How Are They Made?
Bone china is a type of porcelain made in part from the bones of bovines, hence the name ‘bone china’. So when you take a sip of tea from your pretty teacup, you’re wrapping your lips around cow bones. Well, cow bones, kaolin and Cornish stone. The materials to make bone china are pretty expensive, and it take a lot of work to process and make these bad boys, so treat your teacups and saucers with the awe and reverence they deserve.
The strongest of porcelain or china ceramics, bone china has a high mechanical strength and chip resistance. It’s also very white and slightly translucent, which in my experience means that there’s some sort of mysterious fairy magic in it. Wikipedia, however, disagrees, and throws science at me:
“The bone ash that is used in bone china is made from cattle bones that have a lower iron content. These bones are crushed before being degelatinised and then calcined at up to 1250 °C to produce bone ash. The ash is milled to a fine particle size. The kaolin component of the body is needed to give the unfired body plasticity which allows articles to be shaped. This mixture is then fired at around 1200 °C.”
Where To Get Bone China Teacups
Your best best to find teacups is second hand stores. I have two shops in my town that I often hit up for teacups. You can also get teacups on Ebay or in antique shops, but I’ve found both those sources a little bit too expensive. Even more expensive are brand new sets, which can go for $175 – $250 (and that’s just for four teacups). Yoiks. Unless collecting teacups is a serious hobby for you, stick to the less expensive stuff.
My rule is that I don’t buy a new teacup unless it’s prettier than one I already have, or if it would be a crime not to buy. I don’t spend more than $5 per cup, because I like to use my teacups and not just look at them. If I spent more I’d feel nervous about breaking them and they’d end up sitting on a shelf forever.
Try to get china made in England, as it’s almost always prettier and better quality than china made in China or Japan. The teacups and saucers have better printed patterns, are lighter and have that delicate feel to them. Royal Albert (http://canada.royalalbert.com) is the creme de la creme, and almost all of my favourite cups are from them.
Feast Your Eyes
If you’d like to learn more about tea, check out All About Tea: Cool History or the Tea Type Lowdown. But enough talk! You came here to get a teacup fix, dammit, so bring on the pictures! Here you go.