A tea chest is a type of wooden case originally produced and used to ship tea to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The conventional tea chest is a case with riveted metal edges, of approximate size 500x500x750 millimetres.
The term is now used more widely to indicate similarly-sized cases, including cardboard cases, produced for various home and commercial uses.
Capacity & design
A tea chest holds 42 to 58 kilograms (tea), the size depends on the origin and client. Sizes vary from 400×400×620 to 500×500×750 mm.
The construction was plywood sheets, held at the edges with metal edges, riveted to the sheets. Internally Tea Chests were often lined with metal foil, and strengthened with inch-by-inch boards at the edges.
More often than not there was no opening to a Tea Chest as such -- one simply removed one of the sides. The lack of an easy opening system for Tea Chests may have originated from the need to ship tea over the open ocean for trips that lasted months at a time.
Tea chests full of tea were also shipped to where tea was sold by weight, rather than by packets.
Tea chests were one-trip affairs, so they were generally sold for non-food use.
During the 1950s throughout the UK, tea chests began to be used as basic basses in skiffle groups, such as the Quarrymen.
The Tea Chest may have influenced
- the Milk Crate, as it holds about the same volume as a large Tea Chest
- the original 20' size of Intermodal container, as it could carry enough Tea & Coffee for a Tea Shop to operate for a month
- The Economist, (UK Magazine) (1994). Desk Companion. London: Penguin. p. 31. ISBN 0 241 00265 6.
- "Bushells Blue Label Tea: Bushells Tea Factory". National Film and Sound Archive. 1925. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
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