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Tea chest

Miscellaneous Antiquities

Object connections:

Collection Miscellaneous Antiquities
ExhibitionsTraders: The East India Company and Asia
User collections Re·Think Migration by marre986
Gallery locationTraders Gallery (Floor plans)

Object details:

Object ID AAB0462
Description Tea chest. Wooden with sliding lid. Lacquered black and inlaid with mother of pearl. Gold painted Chinese characters on the lid. The Chinese characters painted on the lid are arranged as such and should be read in the following order: Shuang Mao Xiang Gao Zhu Lan ('Gao Mao', the two larger characters reading from right to left, the brand-name of the tea seller) 'Gao Mao' can be considered as a 'chop' in the context of Sino-foreign tea trade. According to Samuel Wells Williams’ The Chinese Commercial Guide (Hong Kong: A. Shortrede & Co., 1863), 'the word chop (hau [hao] or tsz’ hau [zihao] a term of common use in the tea trade) means merely a brand or mark, and is given by the brokers who make up the lots of tea in the country. It is frequently the name of a firm, or merely a fancy appellation applied to each distinct lot of the same quality and origin, to distinguish it from other lots, even of the same sort. A chop can therefore be as few as 2 or 3 chests, or as many as 1200; a chop of congon is usually 600 chests, but other kinds of tea not being so uniform are reckoned by packages, and not by chops. The 'chop name' consists of two characters, as yuh-lan [yulan] Magnolia, hinglung [xinglong] Rising Affluence, fang chi [fangzhi] Fragrant Sesamum, & c, and has slight reference to the origin or quality of the tea.' (Williams, 1863, p. 147) The four smaller characters reading from top to bottom, 'Shuang Xiang Zhu Lan', means double-scented caper. Caper is black tea from the district of Anxi in the western part of Fujian Province. According to Samuel Wells Williams, caper is 'rolled into small round pellets, the leaves being made to adhere by weak rice water. It presents a reddish brown, curly leaf, sometimes mixed with a large quantity of dust; the infusion is pale red and weak; and the tea the sourest of all black teas.' (Williams, 1863, p. 143) 'Double-scented carper' is very likely a kind of 'scented caper' with a flower aroma made from tea cultivated in Kwangtung [Guangdong]. They all go to England, where their consumption is steadily increasing.' Scented caper was 'the Imperial of black teas, and is often adulterated with other leaves, and disguised with deleterious ingredients' (Williams, 1863, p. 146). References: Samuel Wells Williams, 'The Chinese Commercial Guide, Hong Kong': A. Shortrede & Co., 1863. [May Bo Ching].
Date made

Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials wood
Measurements 305 mm x 285 mm x 285 mm
  • Tea chest (AAB0462)
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