Hearkening back to a time when tea was served in elegant style, The Roberts House Museum will host a Cup and Saucer Display and Teas beginning Friday and continuing through March 3.
Four formal teas will be served on Jan. 26, Feb. 10, 23 and March 3.
The elaborate display of more than 200 cup and saucer sets from 25 patrons can be viewed during regular museum hours.
"There are some that are extremely valuable and some that aren't," explained Dorene Perks, event coordinator. "We have just a little bit of everything and we have some more coming in."
The variety of cups, saucers, dessert plates and teapots covers innumerable designs, and they originate from around the world. Several cups are more than 100 years old.
A European coffee cup, as elegant as a fine tea cup, is as large as modern coffee mugs. A Rosenthal mocha set was the prize in a 1950 bingo game in Landsburg, Germany. A Japanese cup in elaborate bands of gold, russet, and blue was purchased in Japan before World War II. Its manufacturer's stamp includes a picture of Mount Fuji.
Oddities include a petite cup with an upside-down floral design and a square cup that presents a challenge to neatnik tea sippers. Several cups include strips across their openings to keep a gentleman's mustache neat and dry.
Even the mustache cups have delicate designs.
"Everything was very feminine, even though men drank tea also," Perks said.
Floral designs dominate, but not exclusively.
An ornate dragon flies around the green bowl of a cup from Japan. Lifting it to the light, the face of a geisha is visible in the bottom. Then there's a teapot with an Americana design of stars and Statue of Liberty depictions that was made in Poland.
In a display cabinet of the museum, a cup, saucer, plate and teapot from Ireland appear made of delicate pink seashells.
"This is the mystery cup," Perks said, pointing to a white cup and saucer with a red and blue stylized floral design that she hopes someone can shed some historical light on. "It's from my family. I was told it was the oldest thing we had but (as a child) I didn't ask where it came from."
Historically, women served formal teas for various occasions from bridge club gatherings to social calls. Special tea sets were presented as gifts from the time a child could drink from a tea cup, for a granddaughter's special birthdays and wedding gifts.
"When my sister got married (in the 1940s) it was quite popular to receive a set of demitasse cups as well as china," said Perks of the abundance of the tiny cups.
"Formal teas have gone out of style," she added, "and now they're coming back in style."
English-style tea shops are beginning to crop up here and there. Many organizations, especially those with a historical or artistic focus, find formal teas a welcome change of pace for fund-raising activities.
During the Roberts House Museums Cup and Saucer Display and Teas exhibit, Patty Temple will serve four formal teas to raise funds for the museum.
The first, scheduled for Jan. 26, sold out the day it was announced. Seating is currently available Feb. 10, 23 and March 3. Cost for Saturday, Feb. 23 is $10, which includes a tour, tea, scones and fruit. More substantial refreshments will be served for the Sunday teas on Feb. 23 and March 3 so the cost is $12.
Museum admission is $3. Hours for viewing the cup and saucer display are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1-3 p.m. or by special appointment. The museum will be closed to the general public during tea times.
For information and reservations call (775) 887-8865.
IF YOU GO
What: Cup and Saucer Display and Teas
Where: The Roberts House Museum
When: 1-3 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through March 3
Teas: Saturdays Jan. 26, Feb. 10, 23 and March 3.
Cost: $3 tour, Teas $10 and $12
Call for tea reservations: (775) 887-8865