Tea cosies

Anne here and today I’m talking about tea cosies (or cozies, if you’re American). In one sense, they’re historical artifacts but in many places today they live on — and even flourish.

What is a tea cosy, you ask? It’s a cover for a tea pot, intended to keep the tea warm for longer. (The one on the right I found on Pinterest from folksy.com but it’s sold out.)

 

Image on left: Made between 1870 and 1899, this velvet English tea cosy features beaded thistle and rose motifs as well as trim and top loops. Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The Duchess of Bedford is credited with popularizing afternoon tea in the 1840’s, and teatime became a fashionable ritual complete with fine porcelain or silver tea services and lavish table settings.

Tea pots were usually made of china or metal (usually silver) both of which are good conductors of heat. That and the fact that houses were heated solely by fires in fire places, and were therefore often quite chilly, meant that the tea in the pot cooled quickly. And so the tea cosy came into being.

Possibly tea cosies have been used for centuries in other places, but the first documented use of a tea cosy in England occurred in 1867. Possibly it was because by that time tea was cheaper and was widely used, and by people who didn’t want to waste it. But that’s just speculation on my part.

“Tea cosies started to be used in North America in the same period. Newspapers of the time reveal that tea cosies enjoyed “a sudden and unexpected rise in public favor” among women who hosted tea parties. Newspapers of the time included advice columns on how to make one: “Some very handsome ones are made of remnants of heavy brocade, but linen is generally used, embroidered or not, according to taste, as these covers are washable. Make the covering large enough for your teapot and provide a ring at the top to lift it off with.” (From Wikipedia)

Enter the “Bachelor Tea Cozy” where both the handle and the spout protruded from the cosy. Presumably bachelors couldn’t be bothered to lift a tea cosy off each time they wanted a refill — or maybe it was because there wasn’t a woman to do it for them, and pouring tea was regarded as a woman’s job. Who knows?  Instructions for knitting the first “Batchelor Tea Cozy” with apertures for the spout and handle were published in Weldon’s Practical Knitter in 1892.
(I doubt any “Batchelors” would want the cute cosy on the left: it’s from Etsy)

The invention of the teabag killed the widespread use of tea pots and tea cosies. Teabags meant you could have the tea exactly the strength you wanted, and you can even serve visitors with as many different kinds of tea as they want.

But I was delighted to learn that the making of tea cosies (if not the daily use of them) lives on. Fish Creek, a small town in Victoria (my state) hosts an annual Tea Cosy Festival, where people enter their home made tea cosies in various categories. (Looking at their photos inspired this post.)

I loved this “steam punk” cosy, though I’m not sure how well it will keep tea warm, with all that metal madly conducting.

So if you enjoy tea and like crafts here are some links that will take you to various patterns for making a tea cosy.  Even if you don’t drink tea yourself, they might make a cute present for a tea drinker of your acquaintance. 

For instance, the minute I saw this Viking tea cosy, I thought it would be perfect for wench Christina, famous for her fabulous Viking series. (It’s from etsy)

Here’s a cute Owl tea cosy knitting pattern.

Here’s a charming knitted tea cosy that’s an aran cable-knit cardigan, complete with buttons.

For bunny-lovers, there’s a sweet knitting pattern here.

I absolutely fell in love with this adorable sheep cosy. It was on etsy, all ready-made, but I’m sure there will be instructions for it somewhere.

If you want to see more tea cosies, do a google image search for them — but I’m warning you — it’s a rabbit hole. I’m not even a knitter but they’re tempting me to start!

Coffee cosies on the other hand, are extremely rare. I usually make my coffee in a French press, so presumably a nice snuggly cover to slide around the glass would keep it warm longer, but when I did a search for them, I found only three on line — and they were the “lift the whole thing off to serve” kind. Perhaps that’s why. We’re all “batchelors” these days and can’t be bothered lifting it off.

What about you? Are you a tea drinker, or is it coffee all the way for you? If you are a tea drinker, do you still make tea in a pot? Do you use a tea cosy? Would you make one? And which of the tea cosies shown (or linked to) is your favorite?

25 thoughts on “Tea cosies”

  1. Thanks for an interesting post. Who knew there was a tea cozy festival! What fun. I love all the unusual tea cozies you shared. The sheep one is so adorable. I am definitely a tea drinker. I usually make a pot if tea when i have friends in for tea and that’s when I use a tea cozy. Otherwise i use a big mug. I didn’t know that the ones which have the spout and handle open were called bachelor cozies! I have two of those and two of the traditional kind. It’s amazing bow many different ones there are.

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    • Thanks, Jane. I have four or five teapots, but like you, I only ever use them when I have visitors. Even then some visitors want green tea, others some other herbal and maybe one will ask for normal tea, so then it’s teabags for me.
      But I have no tea cosies, and researching this post and seeing all the gorgeous different tea cosies has inspired me to get or maybe even make one.

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  2. Wonderful, Anne! I’m not much of a tea drinker except when I’m in the UK, but I adore all these lovely tea cozies. I have one a friend gave me that was quilted and patterned to look like a cat. I fluffed it and set it on the floor and my cat of the time frowned and walked aggressively to the cozy. When she touched her nose to the cozy, it fell over over and my cat thoroughly and forever lost interest in it.

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  3. Anne, I’m not a tea drinker (or coffee, for that matter), but I do love the imagination and artistry behind some of these tea cozies. However, since my mother drinks tea, and I am a knitter, I was already planning on making her an Aran cardigan cozy. So cute! And it shouldn’t take that long either.

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  4. Great post! When I visited England in 1987, I bought two of them (one for my tea drinking mom and one for me that kept my small drip coffee carafe warm). My mom loved hers so much that she wore it out so I sent her mine. After she died, l got it back and still use it now for both tea and coffee pots. Best purchase I’ve ever made!

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  5. I don’t have any tea cozies, but a friend of mine has a couple of absolutely adorable ones made by her grandmother. They are quilted, and they are chicken cozies! The neck and head of the chicken is the spout and the chicken’s tail is the teapot handle.

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  6. Lovely post, Anne! I don’t drink much tea (except when I have a cold) and don’t normally use a tea cosy but I might have to make an exception for that Viking!

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  7. A fun post! I only drink nettle tea and usually make it in a mug but I have a one cup teapot with the cup as a base that my daughter bought me one Christmas. I’m tempted by the owl cosy! I love owls and I’m a knitter so you never know!!

    Reply
    • Nettle tea — how interesting, Teresa. My grandmother used to drink it too. She claimed it cleansed the blood and had all kinds of health benefits, but she couldn’t get any of us kids to try it. She snipped nettles into soup instead, and that was delicious. We couldn’t taste the nettles at all. But she was such a fan of nettles that Pop kept a small corner of the garden especially for growing nettles!

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  8. I mostly drink iced tea, and that’s a warm weather drink. Although in the winter, I may drink it when I go out to eat because I’m not much of an alcohol drinker, and I try to limit soft drinks. Anyway, there’s a lot of warm weather where I live, and that’s when I drink it at home.

    I do drink hot tea sometimes in the winter, but I use teabags. So I’d have no use for a tea cozy. (What can I say, I’m a Texas savage.)

    I’m amazed to read that there’s such a thing as a Tea Cosy Festival!

    Reply
    • Susan, we all have our preferences, and there’s nothing savage about preferring iced tea or using tea bags. I make iced tea in the summer, too, though a lot of the iced tea I drank in the US was too sweet for my taste. But my father swore drinking hot tea cooled him much better in hot weather.

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  9. I’m neither a tea (unless sick) nor coffee drinker, Anne, but I definitely enjoyed seeing all the tea cosies and learning about the Tea Cosy Festival. (I always drink my Milo or hot chocolate far too quickly to even need a cosy!) Thank you for a fun post.

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Kareni — I could easily have doubled the number of pics of cute cosies, but had to restrain myself.

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  10. Many years ago in my youth, when kids made Christmas presents for their family members, I made my mother a tea cozy. It was red gingham, lined with flannel, and was just the plain kind with no opening for handle or spout. It wasn’t particularly useful, since my mother rarely drank tea, and if she did, it was a single cup made with a tea bag. But I was a big reader of English novels and I was entranced by the idea of a tea cozy. (Besides, making it was within my sewing ability,)

    I still love the idea of a tea cozy, though the house is rarely cold enough to make it necessary.

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  11. I have a bachelor tea cosy, that I never knew was called that, and I use it all the time. I make a pot even when it’s just me, but I do use mugs too. I’ve even used it for a warm cover at a buffet before! Lovely post! Here’s to tea!

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  12. I am a tea drinker with a tea pot but I’ve never heard the term bachelor tea cosy before. That is both fascinating and hilarious. I have moved to pot tea with loose leaves to cut packaging and to have the leaves for my garden. I hadn’t heard of your festival in Victoria either but used to regularly visit the Teapot and TeaCosy Festival in Morpeth, NSW, (my home state) until it finished in 2017…. You can definitely buy or make a cosy for your coffee pot if it is the French Press kind or even for mugs. It’s been pretty nippy here lately so I was looking for a pattern and fell down the rabbit hole 🙂 Try these relatively plain ones (not going back down there to find the good ones lol ) https://www.allfreeknitting.com/Knit-Accessories/French-Press-Coffee-Cozy or for your mug, this https://www.snapdragonlife.com/news/blog/knit-your-own-mug-cosy/ …. In both cases the best cosies button around your handle so they stay in place rather than sliding down and out. Great for people like me who put down the cup and pick it up 15 minutes later to find it tepid! Happy drinking.

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    • Thanks for those links, MarryD, but I’m not a knitter. But I know a few people who are and who would love these. I could sew a cosy, I suppose. But really, I think I need a bigger mug. And not to drink coffee while on the web.

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