Brandy S Culp, Wadsworth Atheneum
Silver Tea and Sugar Service
Sugar is a sweet part of our everyday lives but it has a bitter history.
First processed in India and the Middle East, sugar only emerged in the New World in the 15th century, the result of expanding trade between the regions. Production increased in the 16th century as Europe began importing sugar from the Americas. Despite this increase, sugar remained a rare and expensive luxury, reserved solely for the elite.
The global trade that developed around sugar between the 15th and 16th centuries was bolstered by the growing popularity in Europe of tea, coffee, chocolate and punch. Yet, objects necessary for the preparation and serving of these beverages did not exist in the west, so artisans used Eastern forms for inspiration: teapots were copied directly from Chinese forms and sugar bowls mimicked the shape of porcelain rice bowls. The use of silver for these accouterments reflects the expensive nature of sugar and the elite status of the owners.