Ted Jones - writer

Britain’s love affair with the stimulating ‘cuppa’ began only three centuries ago. As late dining became the norm, afternoon tea became the means of warding off the pangs of hunger. The teapot was born.

Its unique mix of craftsmanship and art soon attracted collectors – an obsession that flourishes still. In London, the enthusiastic collector will find his tastes, whether reproduction or modern, Victorian or Art Deco, well catered for by department stores like Knightsbridge’s Harrod’s. My favorite, Wedgwood’s “Wild Strawberries” range, features tiny pink strawberries on gleaming white china. It even offers a choice of pots: standard £99.50, or miniature (2-cup) £69.

The more intrepid collector will make for street markets like the mile-long Portobello Road, which winds through London’s Notting Hill. Every Saturday its 2000 stalls are a magnet for collectors, with stall-holders specialising in well-known marks like Spode, Doulton and Wedgwood. With over 20 restaurants and pubs to relax in, it’s tempting to spend the whole day.

In the markets, pots can cost anything between £20 and £200 - reasonable haggling is expected - but specialist dealers may ask up to £2,000 for exceptional pieces.

The markets are the place to find the latest fun collectible: novelty teapots. If the pot resembles a London bus or a Harley-Davidson, who cares how well it pours? That pot picturing a soliloquising Hamlet (£23) could start off a Shakespearean collection.

For the novice, the best starting places are collectors’ clubs and magazines. Clubs can arrange visits - and deals – with manufacturers, and advise on displaying the trophies.

But while most collectors look for the endearing oddity, others seek a treasure that will appreciate in value. Scarcity is key: like teapots commemorating historical events; or traditional styles, like Edwardian or Art Nouveau. Traps to avoid are large production runs - 500 or fewer is best – or pots manufactured overseas to reduce costs.

For the collector parched from the quest, London is teashop heaven. Popular tea-spots include Claridge's in Mayfair, or nearby Fortnum and Mason’s, supplier to Britain’s Royals, offering more than 50 blends – served in eau-de-Nil china pots, the company’s traditional color.

350 words

Ted Jones is a freelance author who lives in Windsor, England. He confesses to a lifelong addiction to tea, and insists that the only way to serve it is hot, from a china teapot