Tea canisters were small containers used to store tea leaves. The first tea canisters originated in China during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), when the fashion for loose leaf tea necessitated new, air-tight vessels in which to store the leaves and keep them fresh. By the mid 18th century, the fashion for tea drinking had spread across Europe, where it was seen as a mark of sophistication and social etiquette. Silversmiths responded to the demand for teawares by creating fine silver pieces for the upper classes. The shape of this canister derives from a Chinese export example (see CCN 286), but elaborates on its design; the canister has a sliding top which would have allowed the owner to easily refill the canister, while the pull-off lid could be used to measure out the ideal amount of tea leaves. The coat-of-arms engraved on the front of the canister are for Martin or Mainwaring impaling Lomax of Childwickbury, St. Albans, Herts.