Tea caddy

DATE: 1780-1820 (made)
PLACE: India (made)
MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES: Ivory hand-painted in black ink

Since the late 17th century, the East India Company had been making large profits by importing tea from China. However, they could not control the quality or the price, prompting a search for an alternative source of tea in British India. The first Indian tea, which was grown by the Company in Assam, was shipped to London in 1838 and over the following decades production soared. By the 18th century India had also become an important source of luxury commodities. This ivory tea caddy was made in Vizagapatam, a port on the east coast of India known for its luxury cabinet work. Decorated in hand-drawn ink depicting wild animals and a savanna landscape, it would have appealed to the British taste for exotic works of art. The lid of the caddy is intentionally tight-fitting to keep the tea leaves fresh.