Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Politics of Tea

Here's an etiquette topic that's rarely discussed (by me, anyway): Gift Giving Etiquette for Heads of State. Pretend you're the King or Queen of somewhere and you're visiting the President or Premier of somewhere else - what do you take as a gift? You can't just pop over to the mall and select something. No, you have to choose a gift that represents the best of your country and yet isn't in any way offensive to the recipient's country. Months of preparation go into these presents and over the past few centuries, many Heads of State have chosen tea related items. Many of these ceremonial gifts are displayed in museums around the world. What do you think of these two?

In 1939, the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway gave this sterling and enamel tea set to President and Mrs. Roosevelt. It was made by famed silversmith David Andersen; more details can be found in the National Archives. I love the modern, art deco style of this set - I wonder if it was ever used?

In 1973, General Secretary Brezhnev presented President Nixon with this 19th century Russian silver samovar (an urn used to heat and serve tea). Find out more at the Nixon Library. I'm guessing this samovar was used; if not by the Nixons, then by someone in pre-revolution Russia when it was new. Think of Dr. Zhivago - just imagine a Julie Christie-type bundled up on a cold night and sipping hot tea from this . . . perhaps it's one of the things she'll take when she escapes . . . well, it is a bit bulky, but how sad to leave something this lovely behind.

Thanks for joining me on this quick look at some famous tea items. Of course, another very popular 19th century gift from heads of state was animals native to the presenter's country, but somehow it's harder to translate that to a modern wedding or housewarming present . . .

Tomorrow we'll be in the kitchen so stop by for a tasty treat!


  1. I love this post!! So interesting. Personally...although I love tea...I thing something tea related is a little safe. I don't know what I would give as a gift to a head of state? President Obahma gave an ipod to the queen of England. Maybe she liked it. I'm sure over the years she has probably received many tea related gifts. I do love the red art deco tea cups and tea pot that the Roosevelt's received. I'd personally be ok to receive that!!

  2. You're right about tea gifts being safe, and perhaps the Roosevelts didn't need another tea service and that's how this ended up in the National Archives. I've read that the Queen and her family often donate the items they receive to charities - I would definitely keep the red set for myself!


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