But porcelain had its drawbacks as well. Mme de La Sablière, a French hostess of an influential literary salon during the 17th century, is often credited with being among the first to add milk to tea. The practice began by pouring milk into the cup before filling it with the hot tea. While tempering the tea in this manner made handling more comfortable, Mme La Sablière was actually seeking to prevent cracking or breaking the porcelain.
In the 19th century, teacups took on a second role—as collectibles. Cups and saucers found a home on display shelves, and friends took to painting white pieces, using them as blank canvases. The hand-painted teacups were passed along as gifts and keepsakes, shaping entire collections out of an eclectic mix of tea wares.
Teacups became pieces of history after World War II, as the “Made in Occupied Japan” stamp marked thousands of exported items and created much-sought-after collectibles. Though the Allied forces remained in Japan until 1951, the “occupied” mark was regulated only through 1947 and had disappeared entirely by 1955.