By Abhijit Phadke
Teapoy's can be said to be Indian version of Coffee tables. They are placed in front of the sofa sets or chairs in the drawing room, as also can be used as tea or coffee tables that can be kept outside in our verandah or garden.
Materials used for making teapoy:
The most popular material is of course good quality wood. Especially the tea poy's made of teak wood are considered the best because of the rich golden brown colour and the stunning straight grain pattern of teak wood. In my grandfather's days (60 to 80 years ago) most of these used to be elegant hand-carved pieces, but nowadays it mostly has simple plain surface with attractive colours. The teapoy top can be made out of wood or it can be a glass topped surface.
The price of the teapoy largely depends on the choice of wood. There are three main choices when it comes to selecting the wood.
1. First are the hand-made pieces made from teak or sheesham wood that are sold by local furniture shops, as well as branded stores.
2. The second option is simple plywood design teapoy's with laminate or glass tops, that can be custom-built by local carpenter's as per the customer's requirement.
3. The third option is veneered MDF. Good quality MDF furniture is usually imported into India (Italian furniture is quite popular in this regard). MDF which stands for Medium density fibreboard is an engineered wood that is made from wood fibres (very fine particles) of wood. Its better and stronger than the Particle board furniture that is seen in local shops. Such MDF furniture can have a high quality decorative wood veneer on its face (such as that of oak, maple, mahogany, teak etc), which gives it a royal look.
If you do not want to choose wood teapoy's, because of its higher cost or whatever reason, then the other option currently available in Indian markets, is the metallic teapoy whose frame is made from aluminium or steel. These types almost always have a glass on top. The glass could be either clear see-through glass or can also be of a tinted colour.
Popular Teapoy designs:
1. Simple 4 legged teapoy with glass top surface.
2. Completely wooden including the top face. If the top face is made out of plywood then its likely to have a decorative laminate glued over it (such as the laminates made by Sunmica or other brands)
3. With additional plank below for keeping newspapers and other stuff.
4. Antique hand-carved pieces, for those who want a retro look.
History of teapoy's in India:
It is believed that teapoy's were first made in the 18th century. This was during the British rule in India. The name tea poy has an Indian origin. Its derived from the words 'Teen Paay' which in Marathi means 3 legs. During those days, these teapoy's actually had only three legs, and were in the form of a wooden box placed on 3 legged-stands. The box used to be an enclosed one, and was used to store course tea powder. The top surface of the box, also served the purpose of a table for keeping cups of tea.
These teapoy's gradually evolved into today's 4-legged varieties. The box disappeared and only the table-top remained. In short, they now look more like the Coffee tables of the Western world. By the way, did you know that Coffee tables are also known as Cocktail tables. Depends on what you prefer to drink I guess. As for me, I am sticking with the word 'Tea' poy.
The teapoy's that became popular in Indian homes during the British colonial rule, have even today retained their pride of place in our living rooms, albeit in their modern form, and are now an integral part of traditional Indian furniture.