When jazz singer Anna Jacyszyn launched the Jazz Café in the Kelowna Community Theatre’s Black Box Theatre a year ago, she wanted to evoke the atmosphere of an old-time speakeasy from the 1920s.
To help with the illusion, she amassed a large collection of tea cups to serve drinks in – a nod to the prohibition practice of consuming hard liquor in dignified china so as to appear to be taking a legal refreshment.
Patrons to her monthly gigs are given the option of having their drinks “Jazz Café Style,” served in a tea cup, or in traditional glassware. Most go with the tea cup filled with, most commonly, the martini of the month, a gin and tonic or red wine.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Anna said. “Some of the women come up and turn the tea cups over to check the stamp on the bottom. They put a lot of thought into picking their cups.”
Anna, who was born in Poland but grew up in Kelowna, received her first tea cup (above) at the age of eight. Her mother got it for her because she was always after her Royal Albert Old Country Rose. Shortly after, her aunty gave her another tea cup. By the time she reached her teens, Anna already had a small collection – which gathered dust as she pursued other, cooler interests for a few years.
Living in England for 20 years and in China, where she launched her jazz career, for four, Anna grew a new appreciation for fine china. However, while she added to her mother’s and sister’s collections over the years, it wasn’t until about two years ago that Anna became serious about collecting her own tea cups, with the Jazz Café in mind.
At first, she passed a couple hundred dollars on to a friend and asked her to pick up some tea cups while on her regular rounds through thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales. She was surprised to be presented with around 50 of them. Since starting the Jazz Café, she’s received numerous donations from members, who have pulled them out of garages and storage containers and dusted them off in the hopes that they will be used and enjoyed.
“I don’t know what they’re all worth, and I don’t want to get them priced because the value, to me, is in the enjoyment. They’re being used,” Anna said.
Anna, who likes Earl Grey in her tea cup when she’s being proper and gin and tonic when she’s feeling more sassy, insists that the receptacle really does make a difference in the enjoyment of a drink – and not just because of scientific factors such as aeration.
“When you drink out of porcelain, whatever you’re drinking tastes better than it would out of glass or plastic,” she theorized. “Whether it’s psychosomatic, that’s fine, but there’s a pleasure in drinking out of something of quality. The beautiful thinness against your lips.”
She also loves that no two of her tea cups are the same. And, because of the difficulty of matching a bin full of tea cups with a bin full of saucers, the two are randomly paired at Jazz Café shows, enhancing their eccentric charm.
It’s a look that can’t be achieved with brand new sets of mass produced drink ware, and Anna loves the uniqueness of her collection – which includes a commemorative tea cup and saucer from 1958, marking the visit of HRH Princess Margaret to Canada (above).
While she has lost a couple of the cups to accidents, most often during transport, Anna thinks the risk of the occasional break is worth the pleasure they bring.
“There’s an art to tea cups – a prettiness. And we’re loosing that prettiness to make a buck. The art of having traditional teas is gone. The art of taking something and enjoying it for pleasure’s sake is gone. It’s so indulgent. We’re still indulgent today, but in a different way. Everything is mass produced and thrown away. The sentiment is missing.”
Whether she’s dealing with art, furniture, clothing or tea cups, Anna likes things that come with a sentiment, and a story.
And what she might not realize, is that she’s giving each cup a new story of its own, each time someone new holds it and sips away, strains of jazz entertaining them in the foreground. Which might not make them worth more money, but it certainly makes them invaluable – at least to the right person.
For more on Anna and the Jazz Café visit www.jazzcafekelowna.com.
– Story and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier
We want to know what’s in your tea cup. And, yes, you can say tea – but then tell us what kind of tea you favour.
Leave a comment before 8 a.m. PST Sunday, March 7, 2010 for a chance to win Anna’s new CD, Lush Life.
Update: March 8, 2010
The randomly chosen winner of Anna Jacyszyn’s jazz CD Lush Life is JC, who said:
“Every day there is tea in my cup. Usually camomile or Earl Grey with a touch of honey. Thanks!”
Congratulations! We will be in touch shortly seeking delivery details.
Thanks your participation, and watch for more giveaways to come.