Is a teaspoon called a teaspoon because of tea? I did some research into the etymology and origins of the teaspoon to find out. The short and sweet answer is, yes. In British dictionaries, a teaspoon is defined in two ways. It is not only defined as a measurement but “as a small spoon” used for “adding sugar to tea” and to “stir tea.” The word teaspoon is quintessentially English as the word and the spoon developed from England’s love of drinking tea as well as England’s colonial sugar wealth.
Tea became less expensive thanks to the British East India Company. Charles II had granted the company a monopoly over trade between England and the East. Because of the company’s increasing importation of tea from Asia, the prices of tea fell in England. Sugar also became less expensive in England as England imported ever greater amounts of sugar from the colonies in the New World - where sugar plantations were run on African slave labor.
An interesting side note about that 1686 edition of the London Gazette which listed a reward for the stolen gilded tea spoons. On the same page is another ad listing a reward for a 15 year old run-away negro boy, last seen on Christmas Day (presumably a slave). Just a reminder of the realities of 17th century world labor conditions that made the proliferation of tea and sugar so affordable to many.
|London Gazette Issue 2203 27 December 1686 page 2