Jane Pettigrew is a very knowledgeable author when it comes to tea (and anything remotely connected to tea). We will be reviewing several of her works on this site. In this book, she explores essentially British tea wares, why they developed and how we have come to us them as we do. In some ways, it's the history of tea through the objects associated with it. The use of anecdotes, panels on social and economic aspects of tea, etymological explorations, tons of illustrations and plenty of wit make this quite serious book a lot of fun to read while remaining hugely instructive. The approach is very methodical and every category of tea ware is covered : teapots, spoons, cups and saucers, caddies, tables and trays etc... Form and function are influenced by history, economics and social realities, and while Design for Tea manages to cover it all, it remains at all times interesting and very readable.
On the less positive side, this book doesn't shine by it's (rather pedestrian) layout. The artwork, while functional, doesn't in any sense convey the beauty that objects dedicated to tea often present. Also, it's focus is really British. Any foreign objects are only discussed if they made it at some point in time to the British Isles. This important reservation is somewhat counterbalanced by the fact that the British are, and have been for a long time, the biggest consumers of tea on a per capita basis and they have had a huge impact on the development of tea consumption and tea ware throughout the world.
Clearly the book lacks some of the "Zen" of tea but it makes up for it in erudition and so we do highly recommend it !