The word slop isn’t usually a word I associate with fine tea drinking and vintage tea parties. However for many tea time occasions of the past, a slop bowl was an essential accessory! Until I started my venture into vintage tea china, I assumed that any bowl accompanying tea cups and saucers was meant to hold sugar. But some bowls are much larger than the usual size, almost seeming out of proportion to the milk jug/creamer. Sometimes they also have a wider rim around the edge than the smaller bowls.
Apparently slop bowls in their current form date back to the early 19th century. Their basic function is to store unwanted tea-related liquid and debris. For example, a slop bowl could be used to hold small amounts of unwanted cold tea, so that fresh hot tea could be poured into empty cups. The bowls were also useful for storing tea leaves that had sunk to the bottom of the cup or alternatively for storing the discarded water that had been used to warm the teapot before adding the tea. This explains their large size and their slightly fluted shape to help contain the liquid.
Although not originally for sugar, slop bowls make very grand sugar bowls for a large tea setting. They’re also really useful for serving chocolates or sweets. I’ve even used them as part of vintage china stands. The stand above is made from Thames china, which was one of the first vintage patterns I owned. Initially I only had some tea cups, saucers and side plates and then I found this huge bowl. It made a perfect mini stand that could be used as a unique desk organiser to store pens, or even as a jewellery stand.
Back to the smaller daintier sugar bowls, which although not always petite are generally in proportion to the accompanying creamer or milk jug. When tea drinkers first started to add sugar to their tea, the sugar was stored in and served from a pot rather than a bowl.
Although sugar pots are still used today, bowls can provide a nice way of presenting sugar in a more accessible way, particularly if holding a tea time gathering. There are so many lovely sugar bowls around. I enjoyed looking through pictures of bowls that I still have or ones that have been shipped to new owners.
p.s. here are a few more pics I thought I’d share…