February 24, 2012

Antique Tea Caddies

I have always loved tea caddies from finding them in antique stores or seeing them at Scott's Antiques. Both the wooden boxes and tortoise shell veneer are pretty, I can't pick a favorite.

Of course with every antique is a story. The earliest of tea caddies that came to Europe were from China in the form of the ever so popular blue and white porcelain ginger jars. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the jar style was abandoned and these boxes with a lid, lock and departments were made out of mahogany  rosewood, and satin-wood and larger versions were known as tea chests. Back then tea was a pricey commodity subject to theft, as with  jewelry, and therefore was kept safe under lock and key, which is why the period pieces have locks. The term caddy became popular after the Malay word kati, a measure weight of tea (approximately 1.3 pounds) and therefore boxes were designed with this size in mind.

As the price of tea grew cheaper, their appearance was of less concern and they fell out of use. Today, they make great ways to store collectibles such as cuff links, or conceal clutter to put your keys, blackberry, or loose change in. They also look great great on a sideboard or buffet.

How would you decorate with an antique tea caddy?

Bookcase styling with assorted tea caddies  and tortoise shell boxes from James Michael Howard

Larger tea caddy adds balance to this antique sideboard from Phoebe Howard

Tortoise shell tea caddy and boxes on this nightstand from Barbara Westbrook at Atlanta Homes

Stacked tea caddies look great in this hallway from Room Service

Tortoise shell styles caddy from BHG

Insanely beautiful beautiful tented tortoise shell tea caddy from Ruby Lane

This beautiful tea caddy that resembles tortoise shell featured on Trad Home

Beautiful tortoise shell caddy from Sallea Antiques who carries a large assortment of various styles online


  1. Id love to have a collection of these pretty things!

  2. I'm obsessed with anything tortoise shell, so I LOVE those caddies!

  3. Oooh, so much gorgeousness in this post!!!

    Thank you SO much for your kind comment the other day, it honestly means the world to me :) I'm happy to have been led to your beautiful blog. Happy Friday to you,

    Nancy xo

  4. They are so cute! Love what you did with yours.

  5. I never realized they were originally used for tea! Such a great little fact, it makes them even prettier to know they started off as something extremely functional.

  6. oooh. Love, love, love the tortoiseshell ones!

  7. I love the one from Ruby Lane, but don't even want to know what it costs!

  8. Love them! I hope Twinings launches a special edition caddie one day. Excellent post Lilly! XoXo :) Maca

  9. Love antique caddies and would use them on a coffee table. We searched high and low for one for a 75th birthday present for my father-in-law which we filled with memories of him written on colorful paper... Which I had had your sources then!

  10. Well, this post would be of great help to anyone who would come to read this one. Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. Damiana


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