Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tea, Teacups and Palaces

My husband and I went on a Globus tour of Great Britain in 2001, and I returned for a London Tea Tour in 2007. [You can read more about the Tea Tour here.]   During those two trips I brought home some beautiful teacups  from the Royal Palaces and Castles I visited.  Over the next few days, I will show photos of them.
Kensington Palace [2001]
In 1689 William III bought the Jacobean mansion [originally known as Nottingham House] from his Secretary of State, the Earl of Nottingham, and commissioned Christopher Wren to extend and improve the house for a royal residence.
Queen Victoria was born and brought up in Kensington Palace and it was there that she received the news of her accession in 1837.
Queen Mary [grandmother of the present Queen] was born at Kensington Palace in 1867.
Today Kensington Palace is a working Royal Residence, accommodating offices and private apartments of a number of members of the Royal Family.  It was the official residence of Diana, Princess of Wales [1981 until her death in 1997.  Who could forget seeing the countless floral tributes placed at the palace gates?], and Princess Margaret [1960 until her death in 2002].  
In 2011 it was announced that the the four-story, 20-room apartment which was formerly occupied by Princess Margaret, was being renovated for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge [William & Catherine].  They are expected to move from their temporary palace apartment into the newly renovated apartment in 2013.
Historic parts of Kensington Palace are open to the public, and the Royal Ceremonial and Court Dress Collection,  dating from the 18th century to the present, is displayed there.  In 2001 and 2007, a collection of Queen Elizabeth II, and Princess Diana's gowns were also on display.
There is a lovely gift shop just before exiting the public portion of the palace, with beautiful English fine bone china.  Below is the teacup I purchased in 2001.   It is backstamped: Designed Exclusively for Kensington Palace "Rose Collection."  A booklet states:  This exclusive design is based on the Centifolia Rose.  This flower was much admired in the time of William III and Mary.  It appears on the wall paintings within the palace and was also used as decorative motif by Grinling Gibbons in his carvings in the apartments at the palace.
The palace is set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. 
William III
Close-up of inscription beneath the statue.
There is a connection between William III and tea [although some consider it conjecture].  William III, was born a sovereign Prince of the Dutch House of Orange.
The highest quality tea was reserved for the Dutch Royal Family, who marked their approval by naming it Orange Pekoe [pronounced PECK-oh].  Consequently, the early Dutch traders from the Dutch East India Company [who played a major role in bringing tea to Europe] may have used "Orange" to imply Holland's ruling House of Orange, and perhaps suggesting a Royal Warrant.
Orange Pekoe oxidized leaves have a copper color before drying, and the leaf infusion produces a bright orange color in the cup, so some attribute the color of the tea to the origin of its name rather than connecting it to William III and the House of Orange.
Regardless, Orange Pekoe [OP] today denotes a fine quality tea.  It is a manufacturing term used to grade black tea leaves that are predominately long and unbroken, sometimes containing leaf buds.
Consumers often mistakenly think it refers to an orange flavor instead of leaf size.  I've incorporated a little Tea 101 into my blog post, but it fit perfectly with William III!  ;-)
Below is the teacup  from the palace gift shop that I purchased in 2007, and it's still available today.  It's from the Historic Royal Palaces Collection.   The website says, "Delicate details are taken from the gardens at Hampton Court Palace, the gates at Kensington Palace and the Jewels at the Tower of London."
I also purchased a tin of tea commemorating the eightieth birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, April 21, 2006.  It was a robust black tea, but neither the name of the tea, nor the tea purveyor were listed on the tin.
Tomorrow's teacup will be from Windsor Castle.


  1. Two beautiful teacups, each with special memories! And the commemorative tin coordinates with the second teacup beautifully. Looking forward to seeing Windsor Castle's teacup. :-)

  2. Very educational post about Kensington Palace (I'm always up to learn about the Royals!), and I am definitely lusting over your teacups and tin. Gorgeous!

  3. I LOVE your tea cups. They are so gorgeous. How wonderful you were able to tour GB!

    Jocelyn @

  4. Fun review of past travels. I also purchased the teacup commemorating Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday. It is on display in the tea room, a daily reminder of a wonderful trip to England too many years ago! Thanks for sharing, Phyllis.

  5. Your teacups are so different than the one I purchased here. Love seeing the variety.

  6. Just found your blog while searching for the same Kensington Palace Rose Collection china! I had purchased a beautiful delicate mug there myself that recently cracked.. was hoping to replace it, but it doesn't look like they sell it anymore.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.. maybe one day they will bring back the rose collection, it is truly lovely.


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