I spent most of my life thinking that -- unaccountably for an English person -- I Didn't Like Tea (shock! horror! perhaps it's the Greek blood!), or coffee, for that matter. When I was little, as my mother made one of her own copious cups of tea, I would be offered a little mug of my own, brimming with a steaming, milky beverage. In my mind, this was -- to paraphrase Mark Twain -- nothing more than a good cup of milk spoiled. It was only many years later, once I had discovered the delicate delights of fragrant Jasmine tea, and the dark, smokey pleasures of Lapsang Souchong, that I realized that actually, I did like tea. Just as long as it didn't require milk. I like tea, and I like milk, but separately, thank you very much. I experienced a similar epiphany in my relationship with coffee. As with the tea, everyone assumed that if I couldn't cope with the taste of coffee even when diluted with milk or in coffee-flavoured chocolates (yuck), I certainly wouldn't be able to deal with the unadulterated variety, so for a long time no drop of pure black coffee had ever passed my lips. On holiday in Florence for my 21st birthday, however, my mum persuaded me that I couldn't come to Italy without attempting a sip or two. Spurning her suggestion of an early morning frothy cappuccino to ease myself in, I opted instead for the rich tang of a tiny espresso. I have never looked back. I blame the Italian sunshine for turning my head.
Now that I've discovered that I am a tea drinker after all, I'm always on the look out for pretty and unusual teacups and mugs to liven up my morning (or afternoon ... or evening) tea break. In fact, no doubt my subconscious was willing me to like tea and coffee for years, just to give me yet another excuse for storing up beautiful pieces of crockery in the cupboard, not to mention silver tea-strainers for all those gorgeous packets of loose-leaf teas I just had to buy when I found myself wandering round the ground floor of Fortnum and Mason. I mean, these things always taste better when they're nicely presented...
One of my favourite mugs is the aptly named Sophia Peek-A-Boo mug from the wonderful Crumpet and Skirt, which I told you about last year. The shop's range has expanded from when I last posted about them, with some new lovely ladies gracing their mugs and cards, but Sophia still holds a firm place in my heart. I can't help smiling every time I drain the dregs from my cup and she pops up again at the bottom:
Perhaps this is the reason I've been drawn to a similarly fun-loving range which I found whilst browsing over at LifeStyleBazarre: always a good place to go if you're on the search for beautiful and quirky homewares. I'm now totally smitten with the Blaue Blume range by Tina Tsang of Undergrowth Designs, especially since some of the pieces are in the sale...
Sadly, sale or no sale, I don't think I can quite stretch to the entire range, but it is hard to resist a teacup whose handle is a sexy pair of legs ending in a pair of enticing red shoes. Although even at sale price, I think I'd be the only one to be drinking out of it!
Blaue Blume teacup and saucer, £35 (reduced from £45)
If I wanted more of a centre piece, I could go for this teapot from the same range, whose handle is formed from a pair of delicately crossed legs tipped with shiny gold shoes...
Blaue Blume teapot, £59 (reduced from £79)
... or perhaps this rather magnificently decadent cake stand, which I absolutely loved until I spotted the rather creepy baby's head at the bottom!
Blaue Blume cake stand, £139
Or how about bathing in sugar? Judging from the joyous kick of this lady's legs, it could be rather fun. I don't take sugar in my tea or coffee, but this sugar bath might just persuade me to answer 'yes':
Blaue Blume sugar bath, £44
If lithe legs on display at the table isn't quite your cup of tea, the range also offers some rather more subdued, but still very pretty options, such as this aptly named cake plate, which just needs a nice slice of something yummy to live up to its promise:
Blaue Blume small cake plate, £18
Mmm, I'm hungry already. Any one of these would be a feast to look upon, as well as eat from, for -- to steal a phrase from Sir W's 1601 essay 'Of Conceipt' -- they are
'a very merriment to the eyes'.