On display at the LAPADA Arts & Antiques Fair, this year, will be highlights from the world's most comprehensive and valuable private collection of teawares. The exhibition will shed light on the extraordinary history of tea and the rich material culture that it has inspired. It will be the first public exhibition of the impressive collection in the UK, which has been on display only once before at the National Museum of Kazakhstan in 2015. Comprising more than 1,700 objects, the Chitra Collection includes individual pieces worth in excess of £1 million. The Chitra Collection curator, Olivia Fryman, has chosen a selection of objects that illustrate four crucial periods in the history of tea and reveal the importance and diversity of tea-drinking customs across the world.
1. Liquid Jade explores the origins of tea in early China and Japan. According to Chinese the mythical Emperor Shen Nung who is thought to have ruled around 5000 ago. years encouraged the cultivation of tea after discovering its health giving properties. By the time the first book on tea, The chaing, was written in 780 AD, the drink had spread to Japan where its preparation was ritualised in tea ceremonies
2. Tea comes to Europe focuses on the establishment of tea drinking in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The craze for tea led to a demand for Chinese and Japanese porcelain t s that initially could not be replicated by European potters. At the same time, European artists and manufacturers strove to create their own tea accoutrements to suit Western tastes and drinking habits
3. Tea and Empire explores the important role of tea in the history of the British Empire; the cultivation of new tea plantations in India, the Opium Wars and the American Revolution.
4. Global Tea Culture showcases a selection of teawares produced in Europe, Russia and America during the 19th century when tea gradually became a feature of everyday social and domestic life, rather than an elite ritual enjoyed by the privileged few.
Notable pieces in the exhibition include a Fabergé tea caddy, an Adam Loofs teapot, a Paul de Lamerie silver kettle, a hare's fur tea bowl and an Odiot tea set.
The collection was amassed by Nirmal Kumar Sethia, the London-based collector and businessman with the aim of preserving the history of tea. In his own words, "The Chitra Collection to inspire generations of tea lovers long after I'm gone. It is my wish that, for centuries to come, the world will be able to appreciate and experience the beauty and significance of tea art and culture.
Mr Sethia has a passion for tea, which began at 14 when he worked as an apprentice tea buyer in London. At 16 he tapped into his entrepreneurial skills and started his own tea buying business Calcutta, India. He later bought a tea garden Assam, where he lived, to immerse himself in every aspect of the tea making process but gave up this career path at 24 when he began working for the family business.
However, tea remained Mr Sethia's passion and in 2000 he started the high-end luxury tea company Newby Teas. This, in turn, led him to found the Chitra Collection of antique teawares in 2011, naming it in honour of his late wife.
Source: Cultural Agenda, Lapada Art Fair press release.