Abandoning the Saucer - Part II
The Saucer in France & England
The Chinese were saucer-less until the 17th century
It was to prevent the discomfort and potential dangers of handling hot bowls (for handles were not added to the “cups” until some time later) that the saucers were introduced as a companion to the teacup. A simple and ingenious idea!
A ‘coincidence’ of history
Quite significantly, the Chinese were adding saucers to their tea sets at the very moment in history that tea was being introduced to Europe. Thus, early on Europeans adopted the use of the saucer from the Chinese. Then, naturally, as is the vocation of Europeans, particularly the French, the tea customs adopted from China were refined and adapted to suite the Western peoples of Christendom.
The French savoir faire turned the tea service into a work of art
However, a question comes to mind: How could such a custom, which we have already said is so very simple, be invented in China rather than civilized Europe? Let me propose an explanation.
I think if Christendom would have been faithful, the saucer custom would have been invented in Catholic Europe. But due to the great apostasy represented by the Renaissance, perhaps God sent this civilized inspiration to a still pagan people
This theory can be supported by the fact that by the 17th century, the Chinese had been using teacups sans saucer for centuries, albeit in a more primitive form. What a “coincidence” that saucers were invented after those many, many centuries simultaneously with the introduction of tea into Europe!
The saucer’s introduction into France & England
France and England are the two nations which are chiefly to be credited for spreading the cup-and-saucer in Christendom. As far as I could verify, the French received the saucer first; from France the tea saucer was passed to the English.
In France, the custom was rapidly assimilated and refined, the normal process of the French. Dealing with another topic, Dr. Plinio said that the French have a special capacity – a kind of vocation – to refine every aspect of life. As firstborn daughter of the Church that became a leader of the nations of Christendom, normally other peoples would follow France’s example. When the French promoted the use of the saucer, the other nations began to emulate.
A French family having its "tea party" time
It is also rather remarkable that the painting at left was made in the late 17th century (not more than a few decades after tea was first introduced to Europe), which proves in very deed how rapidly the French assimilated tea and its associated customs, and how quickly they refined it.
But it is to the English that those niceties such as fine china, the tea rooms and gardens, and their tea times are to be credited. To this day the English have maintained the refined custom of the consumption of tea and the manufacture of fine china. However, even in England corruption has set in with the lamentable spread of plastic “mugs” and “Keurig”-style tea in paper cups…
Yet, by virtue of its former Empire, the English people are to be particularly credited for spreading civilized customs like the saucer to the four corners of the earth.
Saucers as an example of Organic Society
Every class adopted the elegant tea service
In the beginning, the nobles adopted the custom, as proved by the paintings of the times. This spread to the bourgeoisie and then to the lower classes, who respectively admired the refined tea times and imitated in their own way. Soon everyone was using saucers with their tea and coffee.
Would that all civilized men, great and small, would have saucers in their cupboard! For me this a very charming thought, all the more so because today things have changed so radically for the worse. Yes, in comparison to today’s neo-barbarians, the simplest people of old were like kings and queens…
Gentlemen's tea at the
Chester Grosvenor Hotel, United Kingdom
Posted March 2, 2020