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Fine English china and the pleasures of tea-drinking go hand in hand. The English are notoriously fussy about their tea cups. Not only do teacups have to look delicate and pretty, they have to be strong and durable and have excellent heat retention. The English like their tea scalding hot! Porcelain and bone china are ideal for making English tea sets. Both are known for their whiteness and translucency, high mechanical strength and chip resistance.

Bone china was invented in the late eighteenth century by English potter, Josiah Spode of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, nicknamed the Potteries. Spode was attempting to replicate the Chinese imported porcelain which was in high demand in Europe at that time.

What is the difference between bone china and fine porcelain?

Porcelain is a clay mixture that is fired in a kiln at a very high temperature till it becomes vitrified (glass-like). The end product is non porous, hard and translucent.

Antique bone china teacup (Spodes 1825) Enamel painted and gilded.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Bone China has the same properties as porcelain but is made differently. Bone China contains up to 50 percent animal ash (mostly ox bone) mixed in with the clay. The bone is burned and ground to a fine powder before it is added. This gives the ware strength and excellent whiteness. The only difference between porcelain and bone china is the color. Porcelain has an off-white/greyish cast where as true bone china is snow-white.

Here are some totally impractical but fun tea cups for you to enjoy. I’d be a nervous wreck drinking tea out of one of these! Please vote for your favorite.

(Photos: courtesy koihai.com

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Teatime for the Firefly is Shona Patel’s debut novel. It is a love story set in a remote tea plantation in Assam, India. You can read the SYNOPSIS and the FIRST CHAPTER by clicking on the red links. Shona Patel is represented by April Eberhardt Literary.

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