The Perfect Cup
By Ariana Salvo
You can generally tell how far below freezing the temperature has dropped by the number of cups of tea I consume. Last night we had our first flurries, and while none of it stuck, this morning I put on wooly socks and my cozy tuque, cranked the heat up, and am now on my third cup of tea and it isn’t even 11am.
Until recently my only tea vessel requirement was that it was large. The bigger the better. But over the last year and a half—basically since we went into pandemic mode, and I started spending endless hours sitting in front of my computer—I’ve developed a new tradition of sipping my tea out of mugs that inspire. I know, I know—but unprecedented times call for weird survival rituals, and being able to reach for a mug that makes me smile is currently one of mine. Since we’re all tea lovers here, the holiday season is just around the corner, our artisans can use our support right now, and there really is no such thing as too many hand-thrown mugs, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite mugs to sip from, and why they bring me joy.
Whistle for Dixie is the brainchild of Erin Farrow. Based out of Leadville in the Colorado mountains, Erin is a potter, high school art teacher, and the owner of a donkey refuge. Her pottery gig is named after one of her rescue dogs, Dixie. While the mug I currently own is from her Mary Oliver series, I was first attracted to her more playful mugs which bear messages like “you’re doing fucking great,” “Don’t should all over yourself,” “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” and my recent favourite, “snailed it!” (when you nailed it, but it took a while). Whether more profound like the mug I currently own, or playful and cheeky, her mugs make me smile, and remind me to stay present and not take life too seriously. Also—she peppers her feed with adorable photos of her donkeys, which I have a soft spot for since I grew up on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. To learn more about Erin and snag one of her mugs, follow her on Instagram here.
This week I was sipping Merry Marzipan out of my Whistle for Dixie mug. A caffeine-free rooibos, this tea is filled with festive cranberries, orange, almonds, cardamom, calendula, cornflower petals, anise, and cloves—the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit!
Village Pottery is a second-generation pottery studio located in New London on Prince Edward Island’s north shore. Started by Daphne Large in 1973 in an old general store, the business has since expanded to include a vacation rental and an ice cream parlour. In 2017, Daphne’s daughter Suzanne purchased the business from her mother, and continues to run it today. In addition to mugs, Village Pottery sells dinnerware, teapots, casseroles, vases, drinking vessels and more. I own two mugs from Village Pottery, and what I love most about them is the shape, which fits perfectly between my palms, and the vibrant colours of her gorgeous glazes. Suzanne will be having a pop-up shop on November 20th & 21st at her studio in New London (more information here). Find out where else to find her mugs here.
I enjoyed a mug of Cardamom Magic in my Village Pottery mug this week. A Sri Lankan black tea with cardamom, apple, hibiscus, rosehips, almonds, cocoa beans, calendula, and sunflower petals, this is my favourite warm up and stay cozy brew right now. An old friend of Lady Baker’s Tea, I asked Suzanne what her go-to cold weather recommendation is, and she said Cream Earl Grey. Whichever tea you choose, enjoying it in one of these mugs is guaranteed to put a smile on your lips.
Jen Long creates out of Loveland, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. In addition to being a talented potter, she is a curator of gardens and an interpreter of plant whispers (you will have to ask her what that means). What I love about Jen’s mugs is that most of them have a message inside them at the bottom of the vessel, so if you’re drinking transparent tea you get to contemplate a positive message with every sip, and if you are a milky tea drinker like I am, there is an empowering message at the bottom of every cup. It’s like getting to open a fortune cookie every time you make tea! I also love her glaze work. The colours are mesmerizing and the texture comforting in my hand. I often sip from her mugs while practicing yoga in the mornings, and I have a very hard time putting them down long enough to flow! I currently own two of Jen’s mugs. When I find a feather on my path it’s always been a sign to me that I am going in the right direction, so when I saw this mug, I knew it belonged in my kitchen. The message inside this one is “Let it be easy.” The message inside my other mug reads “The words you speak become the house you live in.” Jen is having her next inventory launch on November 27th, so be sure to follow her on Instagram here to make sure you don’t miss it!
This week I enjoyed a cup of Lady Baker’s Vienna Eggnog in my feather mug. This black tea blend with caramel and rum notes hits the spot! Cinnamon, ginger, and cloves will keep you toasty warm while you curl up with a book this holiday season. And if you’re feeling festive, add a little rum to the pot!
Dylan Tierney is a potter from New Haven, Prince Edward Island. An engineer by profession, Dylan takes inspiration from early Chinese, Korean and Japanese stoneware pottery, and recently built his own kiln to allow him to perfect his reduction firing technique. Reduction firing removes oxygen from the kiln’s atmosphere which forces the flame to search for oxygen within the body of the clay. The result is dramatic changes in colour during the firing process.
An intimate connection with his materials is important to Dylan. He uses simple ingredients like island clay, hardwood ash, stones, and sand in his glazes, which affects the hues and textures that emerge during firing and deepen his connection with the island landscape. Glazes are a major tool for expression in his work. The glaze on this mug has island hardwood ash in it, which is what generated this exquisite blue. He showed me a photo of another mug he made recently that he had added island clay to. Interestingly, adding red clay turned the glaze a vibrant emerald green. Thus far Dylan has primarily been sourcing clay from elsewhere because island clay tends to fall apart during firing, but he has started experimenting with firing at a lower temperature to keep it intact, so we may see mugs made with island clay among his creations soon! Dylan will be selling his mugs at the upcoming Christmas Craft Fair at the Delta in Charlottetown and at the Etsy Fair at Murphy’s Community Centre. You can also find his work at Moonsnail Soapworks in downtown Charlottetown. To learn more about his work follow him on Instagram here.
I enjoyed a cup of Peppermint Swirl in this beautiful mug this morning. A Sri Lankan gunpowder green tea with notes of vanilla and peppermint, this is the tea equivalent of a candy cane! Dylan is also a fan of Lady Baker’s Tea. His recommendation? Sencha Green.
Do you have a favourite hand-thrown tea-sipping mug? Leave a comment below this post with a link to the potter. I’m always on the lookout for another mug to add to my collection!
Ariana Salvo, a regular contributor to Lady Baker's Tea, was born in the United States, and spent sixteen years of her childhood on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. She moved to Prince Edward Island to do her master’s degree in Island Studies, fell in love with the tightly knit community, and has never left. When not writing, she can be found exploring art at galleries around the world, flower farming, traveling to remote islands, hiking and taking photos of the wild natural landscapes of Canada’s eastern shore and reading historical fiction with a good cup of tea.
I loved this! I own three Robert MacMillan pottery mugs. robertmacmillanpottery.com Perhaps one can’t have too many special handcrafted mugs for enjoying tea & coffee. After reading this, I am inspired to go ahead and gift myself with another sweet mug that I’ve had my eye on, from a different potter. Next time I’m in town! Merry Christmas to me!
Thank you, Ariana! This brings art, inspiration and tea to a new level.
I love this I have been posting from my mug collection and pairing with Lady Baker teas for awhile @firehorse.studios on Instagram we need a specific mug/tea hashtag. :)