Loose Leaf Tea in an Art Museum Exhibit

Loose leaf tea in an art museum? Unexpected perhaps, but tea—along with its ware and ceremony—has been integral to Western culture for hundreds of years and to Asian culture for thousands!

Currently, TeaHaus loose leaf tea is part of an ongoing exhibit, Elegance from the East: New Insights into Old Porcelain, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, providing visitors the opportunity to  see and smell teas that are similar to what 17th-century Europeans would have been drinking.

Here, curator and scholar Shirley M. Mueller pulls together seemingly disparate strands—the porcelain trade, the neuroscience of collecting beautiful items, miscommunications between cultures, art, and tea—into a compelling narrative!


(Video provided by Shirley M. Mueller)

Teas shown in video are available at teahaus.com.

For more on Shirley’s exhibit, see my previous blogs:
Tea, Porcelain, and Our Brains—yes, there IS a connection here!
Women and Tea: Making It Their Own
Miscommunication and Mistakes, Fired into 18th-century Teapots and Plates
How Old Is That Teapot? Using Art to Date and Interpret Art  
A 1644 Shipwreck and Its Teapots
“Modern” Teapots in a 1700s’ Shipwreck    
The Valuable Tea Protected the Porcelain after This Ship Sank in 1752

Still Enjoying Tea at the Art Fair!

  • comfortable shoes?  √
  • sunscreen?  √
  • a lot of time?  √

Then you are ready for the Ann Arbor Art Fairs—because I guarantee you will (1) walk for hours, (2) see a staggering amount of amazing artwork, and (3) meet some incredibly creative artists who love what they do!

So, as a continuation of my last post (tap here to see), I bring you more tea-inspired artwork.



Valentine Studios, Jack Valentine (jackvalentinestudio.com)


Tree of Life Art Works, by Kim and Katherine McClelland (treeoflifeartworks.com)



River Turnings, by Cliff Lounsbury (riverturnings.com)



o happy clay! by Peggy Crago (pcragopottery.com)


Eshelman Pottery, by Paul and Laurel Eshelman (eshelmanpottery.com)



Nancy Gardner Ceramics (nancygardnerceramics.com)



Delores Fortuna (twentydirtyhands.com/delores-fortuna)

Note: All photos used with permission of the artists. Feature photo of teapot, wood, by Cliff Lounsbury (River Turnings).

Enjoying Tea at the Art Fairs

Unbearably hot and humid + storm clouds looming = Ann Arbor Art Fairs week

Because—as we annually lament—Michigan weather always seems to be at its very worst for this annual event!

And the art fairs (four of them, running simultaneously) are not taken lightly here. One of the nation’s largest outdoor fairs, this four-day event features over a thousand artists and crowds of people.

Yesterday my daughters and I hunted out tea-inspired artwork. We had a great time, talking with amazing artists who are passionate about what they do, and seeing incredible art ranging from whimsical to elegant.

Enjoy this sampling!


Rebecca Lowery Ceramics (rebeccalowery.etsy.com)



Stephen Rich Nelson (www.stephenrichnelson.com)


Highers Pottery Studio, Stan H. Baker (Higherspottery.com)


Sheep Incognito by Conni Togel (www.charisma-art.com)

brownlee-2-web brownlee-1-web

Ed Brownlee, Ceramics


Dunnmorr Sudio, Robin Morris (www.dunnmorrstudio.com)


Little Wolf Ceramics, Valerie Walchek (www.instagram.com/littlewolfceramics)

Note: All photos used with permission of the artists. Featured photo taken by Rebecca Lowery.

How To Have an Informal Do-It-Yourself Tea Tasting

Surprise packages are the best!

And those containing a tin of tea—a blend created by friends—even better!!

tea leavesMy dear friend Susan and her son David recently visited TeaPort, “Home of the Original Nanaimo Bar Tea Blend,” and sent me the results of their personal experiment in tea blending.

Gather the troops and break out the teapot—

My family promptly agreed to taste test this intriguing—and very pretty—blend of black tea from Sri Lanka, calendula, jasmine and sunflower petals, coconut flakes, real maple syrup, butterscotch pieces, and natural flavors.

and first consider the leaves and make some speculations

We wondered how on earth Susan and David came up with this combination! When we read the ingredient list, we didn’t think any of us would really care for this tea. I thought the blend smelled too much of butterscotch (not a favorite flavor of mine) while others picked up fruity and caramel. The choice of both butterscotch and maple syrup was a bit baffling.

And all of us believed that the tea would be very sweet!

On to brewing—

susan-wet-leaves-webWe measured out 5 teaspoons of the tea into a one-quart teapot, added boiling water, and brewed for 2 minutes (no specific directions were provided by TeaPort so we used standard brewing for black aroma teas).

and then tasting—and describing—the brew

First off, we nailed the amount of tea and brew time!

However, predictions of flavor don’t make something true. We all agreed that we could taste a sweetness but the tea was not sweet! Rather, it was smooth.

And with five of us, we came up with different descriptions of the same tea:

  1. No one flavor dominates; more astringent, like a second flush, than full bodied. A bit of floral with creaminess behind the floral.
  2. Smooth, creamy, balanced.
  3. Fruity, toasty, and creamy.
  4. Caramel and smoky.
  5. Caramel with very smooth aftertaste.

Well, we learned several things:

  • our predictions were very unreliable
  • each of us picked up different flavor nuances
  • this is FUN!!!
  • and we love the tea!


Anthropomorphic Gay 90s Teapot: Creepy or Charming?


So I inherited this Gay Nineties (Lady) anthropomorphic teapot from my grandmother.

makers-mark_webMy first reaction? A definite Eww!!

But my husband recognized the pattern, having seen it in antique stores.

Indeed, this seems to be a collectible that people do collect. Since my vintage teapot was never used (the built-in strainer is pristine), it was strictly for display.

This handpainted teapot was made in Japan sometime between 1949 and 1961, by the Miyao Company (now Miyawo) under the PY trademark, and probably sold through an American distributor.

The Reference

The Gay Nineties—an American expression—refers to the 1890s. The expression began in the 1920s and was widely used during the Great Depression in the 1930s as people looked back to a supposedly happier time.

Yet although this nostalgic term evokes an era of gaiety—and assuredly many of the upper and middle classes did prosper—the decade of the 1890s was anything but. An economic crisis began early in the decade, worsened by the Panic of 1893, which brought unemployment, business failures, bank closures, a stock market plunge, and a depression.

The Face

So why would a teapot be anthropomorphized?

Well, the hairstyle and hat do evoke an earlier era, making the teapot a fun, nostalgic tchotchke. It definitely makes serving tea to a guest memorable!

But according to Rick Nauert (2015),

thinking of a nonhuman entity in human ways renders it worthy of moral care and consideration.

Maybe this is just as much advertising as nostalgia. Maybe the human face compels people to purchase it. And once it is in your house, those eyes make it difficult to throw the thing out.

Because it is still in my house. And it is growing on me.

Source: Nauert, R. “Why do we anthropomorphize?,” Psych Central. 2015.

Aaarrrghh! Can Tea Rescue This Day?

There are days and then there are days and then there are those days! And we’ve all had them. You know the drill.

I am going to quit my job and leave my family and sell my possessions and get rid of my car and start a new life in a new place and be a minimalist so that I don’t own anything that ever has to be repaired or that requires reading an owner’s manual that I don’t understand and I never have to answer another question and I never ever have to figure out why Alexa never understands the question I am asking her.

Yep, those days.


YES!!!!!!!! (Sometimes, you just need a lot.)

desk and tea

An Intriguing Persian Ware–Made in Germany Teapot (Now, How the Heck Do I Use It?)


A friend handed me this incredible teapot—which I puzzled over for a bit. How the heck was it used?? The clue: those little feet on its back.


You place the teapot on its back, supported by its legs, and then put the tea leaves in the top part of the pot, above the strainer. Add hot water and let the tea steep.


To serve the tea, simply put the pot back upright and pour, and the strainer along with the plug of the cover will keep the leaves safely in the top part of the pot.

Persian Ware, Made in Germany

makers-markCurious to learn more about this teapot, I tried investigating Persian Ware that was made in Germany. . . . and came up with . . . not a whole lot.

I did, however, locate Stuart Federhart Holland, who researches this ware, and who very graciously shared the following information.

The makers mark found on the teapot’s base is an import mark for the United States. While this ware was manufactured in Germany in the years between the two world wars, it was intended for Germans who had immigrated to the U.S. Thus, this ware is found primarily in the States.

Some of the designers of this ware were connected to the Bauhaus movement (Bauhaus was an influential German modernist school of art that melded creativity and manufacturing, fine art and craft).

And the name, Persian Ware? Some of this ware’s patterns draw on nineteenth-century Persian motifs.

And who thought up this original teapot design? Absolutely no idea.

But it’s truly a conversation starter!