The Malay word kati, a weight by which tea was sold equivalent to 1 1/5 lb., was adopted to describe the container for tea. Early tea "caddies" or canisters were relatively small owing to the high cost of tea and were often contained in a fitted, locked case. These cases usually contained two caddies for the two most common varieties of tea, black (bohea) and green (vidris), as the engraved initials of this set indicate. The third larger canister contained sugar. Jonathan Swift refers specifically to "the Invention of small Chests and Trunks, with Lock and Key, wherein they keep the Tea and Sugar" advising in his 1745 Directions to Servants to procure a "false Key" to gain access to the costly and exotic contents, otherwise "you are forced to buy brown Sugar, and pour Water upon the Leaves, when they have lost all their Spirit and Taste."
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Detail of crest, lot 245