Here’s a mystery for you: What are tea balls? I’ve never seen one other than the lovely infusers that are available. The kitchen at the May-Stringer Museum has a White Rose Tea Ball tin on display. It’s right next to a Lipton tin about the same size. I’m guessing, and I would love to know if I’m wrong, that tea balls were the precursor to tea bags.
Tea bags were accidentally invented by Thomas Sullivan when he sent samples of tea varieties to customers in little silk bags, and people loved the idea of tossing them into a cup or teapot without having to measure.
Or, perhaps those two women from Milwaukee, Roberta C. Lawson and Mary Molaren, should get the credit because they applied for a patent in 1901 for a Tea Leaf Holder. At any rate, Thomas Lipton grabbed the idea and started selling tea in little gauze bags. Tea tins of many shapes and sizes survive after more than 100 years and have become collector items. No doubt, the tins held many little treasures and keepsakes after their first use of storing tea.
The Museum Schedules!
The May-Stringer tours on Wednesday – Saturday from 11am – 3pm – 352-799-0129
The 1885 Depot tours on Friday – Saturday from noon – 3pm – 352-799-476
The Countryman One Room Schoolhouse is open on Thursday – Saturday from noon – 3pm – 352-515-305