by Mike Harney May 18, 2021 4 min read
Because 2020 was not a year of fanfare, it’s likely that the 150th birthday of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City went largely unnoticed except by the most ardent of Met fans (as the museum is affectionately known). Just to make sure you know we’re not talking about the baseball team when we say “Met,” the sports team is the New York Mets, with an “s.” Otherwise, nothing I say from here on out will make any sense whatsoever.
As part of that milestone birthday, The Met launched the reopening of their British Galleries. A big part of those galleries is tea, naturally. Because we have been assisting the cafés inside The Met for many years, we already had a relationship. It made perfect sense for them to reach out to us about creating commemorative tins and teas to celebrate the reopening of these amazing galleries.
From our perspective, this partnership is a perfect fit. First, The Met is one of the best museums in the world, and it is an honor to partner with them. My wife, Brigitte, has been a member for years, and we have been visiting the museum for decades. I remember when the King Tut wing opened back in the 1970s, and we visited with our sophisticated Aunt Susan. And later I loved the armory section with all the shiny armor and swords. After spending some time in Paris and marrying the lovely Brigitte, I came to appreciate the Impressionist and Expressionist collections. Several years ago, I realized that I had never seen the impressive African and Oceanic collections. As we age, it's nice to still find discoveries.
It is also, quite frankly, good business for us and for them. These beautiful commemorative tins and delicious teas sell well at both The Met’s shops and on our website. It’s gratifying to know they feel the same as we do about this partnership. Our friend Morgan Pearce, Senior Manager of Marketing + Brand Partnerships at The Met, was kind enough to share this with us:
“The Met is proud to work with master tea blenders Harney & Sons. Our collaboration began in celebration of the Museum’s recently renovated British Galleries, which opened in 2020,” Morgan shared. “Harney’s expertise in the history of tea, and their exceptional quality made them an ideal partner to develop commemorative flavors that celebrates the art of tea and art in The Met collection.”
When it came to selecting the art that was used on the three tins, you likely won’t be surprised to learn that the folks at The Met had a lot to say on that topic, although I did give them the idea to have all the teapots on The Taste of British History. The Met executed the artwork and, I mean, who could second guess art from Cezanne and Monet? I love those French artists.
Speaking of those teapots… The British Galleries feature over 100 teapots on display. They have been gathered by the museum over the years and are a lovely collection. I first saw them in the summer of 2019. I was given a behind-the-scenes tour by the curator Wolf Burchard of the British Galleries. The renovation was still a work in progress, but the teapots were already on display. That inspired me to suggest that they should be on the Taste of British History tea tin. The second time I saw them was on my visit to the museum last summer after it had reopened. It was great to see Wolf’s work.
Of course, we routinely think of teapots in their daily function of making great teas. However, over time they have becomeobjects d’art. This started with the Chinese a long time ago. I love the blue and white teapots from the Qing Dynasty. Also, there are the simple yet stunning Yixing teapots. When the British started to import tea from China, they needed some ballast in the bottom of the ships, and often it was ceramic teapots and other items that came to be known as “china.” So when the British started to learn how to make nice ceramics, they followed the Chinese down that road.
On the topic of teapots, when it comes to function versus art, Brigitte and I do have a more functional teapot that we use on a daily basis, so we are a bit boring. However, we have sponsored a teapot show at the Clay Art Center in suburban New York, and there were many beautiful and innovative clay pots. I bought a few and put them in our collection. Also, there was an art teacher from the nearby Millbrook School who made 10 pretty teapots, and that is also in our collection. Who knows, one day we might do a bit of a museum and have our own collection on display!
We have truly enjoyed this art partnership with The Met… so much so that there is more coming! The Islamic miniatures found at The Met is another collection I particularly enjoy. One has to sit down and look through the magnifying lenses, but it’s worth the effort. Recently, the Museum suggested that we do a tea tin for that area. So another exciting project is launched! Stay tuned!
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