History and Evolution of the Tea Caddy

History and Evolution of the Tea Caddy

We’re all familiar with the tea caddy as a box or receptacle used to store tea. But how much do you know about its origins? Read on to learn more about the history and evolution of the trusty tea caddy.

Where Does the Caddy Get Its Name?

The term ‘caddy’ is derived from the Chinese word ‘catty’, a Chinese pound, which is a unit of weight equivalent to 600 grams. This is also the measurement by which tea used to be sold.  The English picked up the word and started using the word caddy to mean a container for tea.

17th Century

In the 1600s, tea was first introduced to Europe and England from China. At this time, it was extremely expensive so could only be enjoyed by the wealthiest in society. The earliest tea caddies that came to Europe were made of Chinese porcelain, decorated in blue and white colours, and were similar in shape to a ginger jar. Until the 1800s, they were called tea canisters rather than tea caddies.

18th - 19th Century

Only the rich and wealthy could afford to buy tea in the 18th and 19th centuries. Because tea was such a prized possession, you would hire an expert craftsman to create you a beautiful and ornate caddy that could protect the tea.

They would craft a unique tea caddy made from wood, metal, tortoiseshell, pewter, brass, or copper. The most popular materials were woods such as mahogany and rosewood. Most were box-shaped and were decorated with intricate motifs. They were delicately inlaid and had ivory, ebony, or silver knobs.

Tea caddies were all the rage, with Chippendale and Hepple White being two of the most renowned tea caddy designers and makers at the time. 

The household tea caddy became a status symbol. It was a treasured piece in many upper-class homes. Tea caddies were expensive and decorative so that they could fit in nicely with the other decor in the room.

They were highly valuable to their owners, and, as a result, many caddies had locks so that they could be kept safe. The lady or mistress of the house owned the key to the tea caddy so that she could keep its contents secure.


As the cost of tea has grown cheaper over the years since the 18th and 19th centuries, everyone can afford to enjoy tea, and the humble tea caddy has become a staple in kitchens across the UK.

The tea caddy continues to be the best way to store your tea and is an essential item for all tea drinkers, whether you prefer yours loose-leaf or in a teabag. The tea caddy is airtight so that it protects the tea and preserves its delicious taste and fragrant aroma. So keep refilling your tea caddy with your favourite tea and enjoy a fresh, flavoursome cuppa every time.

Tea caddies are a must-have for tea lovers everywhere. The wooden box style that was so popular in the 18th and 19th centuries has been swapped for modern tin styles that are available in a variety of different designs, shapes, and sizes - from Alice in Wonderland collectables to vintage themes. This makes them perfect gifts for family, friends, and loved ones.

Shop Tea Caddies

At New English Teas, our passion is delivering delicious tea in memorable tea caddies. We have proudly built up a myriad of best-selling collections and continue to present our tea in beautiful tea tins, caddies, and cartons. Shop our wonderful collection of tea caddies today.

Back to blog