At the height of NYC’s quarantine in the spring, it was hard to keep my chin up. I was up until dawn one morning working on a variety of client work and creative projects—and, if I’m honest, some existential staring at the wall.
(See any of my recent vlogs for a taste of what quarantine was like…)
As the sun came up and rays of light splashed around the room, I took a look around my apartment. It was lacking something.
I’ve always leveraged beautiful objects, from functional add-ons to decorative accents, to infuse personality and festivity into a space. Being locked in the house had inspired me to declutter, redecorate, and add a few special touches… but at that moment, I saw a void.
And that void exactly the right size to fit a 3-tier stand in gorgeous mismatched blue and white china from The Brooklyn Teacup, a small business based right here in Brooklyn that converts sentimental (or just downright pretty) china into tiered treasures with versatile end uses. They also sell original creations. I found this elegantly elevated business on Instagram, where I find most things, and had been following their exciting growth and spying their storage room stacked with china.
Inspired by this beautiful brand and their upcycling mission, I reached out to Ariel Davis, founder and “Chief Upcycling Officer” at The Brooklyn Teacup. Here’s what she had to say about quarantine tea parties, preserving family heirlooms, and her new socially distanced pickup program!
Hey Mishka: Can you tell me about your love of china & tea cups? How did it get started? Is there a story behind it?
Ariel Davis: The truth is, I didn’t actually love china the way you might think someone who decided to start a business revolving around it might! My mom loves china and has a different set for almost every major annual holiday. My paternal grandmother “granny” also adores china. She had decorative collectors’ plates hung around her home throughout my upbringing.
I certainly have fond memories associated with using fancy and festive china at holidays. I absorbed the symbolic weight that eating on china held in marking and elevating important family gatherings.
I also had tea parties with my granny and younger siblings growing up. At 101, my granny continues to play a large role in our lives. We cherished the times where we’d laugh and sing together over dainty teacups filled to the brim with earl gray (mostly milk) that we were allowed to serve ourselves—along with extra sugar cubes and homemade cookies…
However, as an adult, living in a small Brooklyn apartment, the idea of owning china, especially teacups and saucers, on top of every day dishes, didn’t even cross my mind. To our parents’ disapproval, my husband and I didn’t even register for china when we got married.
This is all to say that while the underlying affinity for china was always there, I didn’t start getting into teacups and fine china until one fateful night. I happened upon someone’s china discarded on the sidewalk alongside their trash. The entire premise for The Brooklyn Teacup began in that moment.
You can read The Brooklyn Teacup’s entire origin story on my site.
Your shop has so many beautiful products! Which variation is your favorite?
Thank you so much! Without a doubt, the blue and white transferware variations are my favorite. The patterns are just so versatile and unique and somehow always look great together.
I was introduced to the world of blue and white china by Elisa Marshall, the owner of Maman (one of my favorite bakeries and cafes in the city). She serves all of her cafés’ pastries and dishes on these lovely vintage pieces.
The presentation of these mismatched dishes, teacups and saucers magically elevates the whole dining experience. Combined with the rest of their aesthetic, it makes you feel like you’ve been suddenly transported to a rustically chic French countryside.
Photo by @_mamannyc_
What’s your favorite menu item to serve on your gorgeous tiered trays?
I would have to say cheese and charcuterie, mostly because people don’t expect it—and then are so delighted when they see it. You usually just think of tiered stands for tea sandwiches, scones, macarons, etc….but you can really do a lot more with them.
Much in the same way people get super creative and serious about cheese board presentation. You can also get quite creative with the way you add your crackers, cheeses, meats, nuts, olives, dried fruits, cornichons, and more on the different tiers of your stand.
Any tips for hosting a tea party in quarantine?
☕️ Weather and space permitting, keep it outdoors—be it your stoop, backyard, driveway, sidewalk, porch, cul-de-sac…
☕️ No outdoor furniture on which to entertain guests? Use picnic blankets or order tablecloths for the occasion.
☕️ Mix and match your “real china” (esp. teacups and saucers!) with cute paper goods from companies like Talking Tables. I used these plates and these napkins for my sisters bridal shower (pre-Covid times) and they were a huge hit. It’s less to transport and less mess to clean up but still gives you that refined tea party vibe.
☕️ Don’t have teacups but want to acquire them for the occasion? We can help! 😊
☕️ Keep everything bite-sized/individually portioned and packaged so there are fewer points of touch/contamination opportunities to worry about over the course of the gathering.
☕️ If you have vintage china you want to showcase, consider incorporating it into your party’s décor in a playful and whimsical ways. For example, arrange little bouquets in your teacups, gravy boats, sugar bowls, etc. Go ahead, uncover your covered casserole dish! You can do a really big floral arrangement (or just use it to store ice).
☕️ Here are some party favor ideas:
- Let the teacups that your guests use for tea double as party favors
- Want favors to be Covid-themed? (Ugh—but sometimes making light of tough situations makes it easier to cope!)
- Floral masks – I think I saw that you can have them customized with names (I’ve seen a whole bunch on Etsy)
- Put little hand sanitizer bottles in vintage teacups and saucers for guests to take home
- The Brooklyn Teacup makes ring dishes with handles and tiered teacup and saucer stands!
- Teacups & saucer stands – used as décor and to serve cookies – makes a great party favor too.
I love these ideas! What else would you like everyone to know about The Brooklyn Teacup?
Instead of packing up and shipping your china to be upcycled, which some are hesitant to do given china’s delicate nature, we encourage our local customers to bring their china to Brooklyn.
We then transform these pieces into tiered treasures and modern heirlooms that you and your loved ones will actually use and enjoy.
We’re always looking for ways to reduce our footprint on the environment. The Brooklyn Teacup is committed to eco-conscious shipping practices. All materials we use to pack and ship orders are either reused/repurposed, recyclable or biodegradable.
Special thanks to Ariel Davis for sharing her inspiration and insight!
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