For as long as I can remember, this tea caddy has been in my family. For some time now I’ve been using it to store my breakfast Darjeeling in.
Neither of my parents know exactly where it came from, although my mum thinks it may have belonged to her grandfather. She believes she’s had it for at least 55 years, during which time it’s been well used. This goes some way to explaining its worn and shabby appearance.
The design on the caddy is known as ‘Black Jap’, and features three different scenes in black, gold, red and silver.
The lid, which has become very scratched over the years, is decorated with no fewer than six cranes, two inside a central circle and one in each of the four corners. Cranes are popular symbols in a range of different cultures and religions, and in Japanese mythology they’re said to live for 1000 years. As well as being symbols of longevity they’re thought to bring good fortune.
There are two more scenes on the sides of the caddy, each depicted twice. One of these features two young ladies holding fans, with what looks like a pomegranate tree behind them.
The other scene shows a well dressed oriental gentleman sitting beside what I think might be a cherry tree planted in a decorative urn. A small boy boy approaches him bearing a bowl of food with chopsticks in it. The old tin is so scratched that the picture is hard to make out.
In the picture below, however, you can see what the original caddy would have looked like when it was brand new and clean as a whistle.
This morning’s post brought me two items of mail from D C Thomson & Co Ltd, producers of numerous well known Scottish publications such as The Beano comic, Oor Wullie and The Broons, The Courier newspaper and The People’s Friend magazine.
Set up in 1869, The People’s Friend is the oldest weekly women’s magazine in the world. A few weeks ago I sent a letter to them, which seems to have been to their liking.
The prize was a double delight for me. Not only did it include a packet of excellent leaf tea (which I opened this afternoon to make a deliciously flavoursome post-lunch beverage), but the tea came inside a brand new ‘Black Jap’ caddy, exactly like the old scratched one.
Oddly enough, only a week or so ago I had been looking at the old caddy and wondering if it could do with being replaced.
Now that I’ve received the new one, however, I have a new appreciation of the old one. Seeing them sitting side by side in the kitchen brings a pleasing sense of continuity.
I’m not really a collector of anything, but I suppose if I were going to collect something Black Jap tea caddies would be a useful sort of thing to have. Do two caddies constitute a collection, I wonder? A small one, perhaps.