A silver tea caddy owned by Theodore Roosevelt, a teapot used by navy officer Lord Nelson, pots and bowls from China dating as far back as the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and the world’s most expensive teapot; with close to 2000 individual pieces spanning over 13 centuries and valued over 200 million dollars, the Chitra collection is a private treasure trove of tea artifacts meant to preserve the cultural history of tea.
The Chitra collection was established by British-Indian billionaire Nirmal Sethia, the founder and chairman of award-winning luxury tea brand Newby Teas. Nirmal, who was born into one of the richest families of India, discovered his love for tea at a young age, and rather than follow into the family business he decided to pursue a career in the tea industry. By age 16, Nirmal had set up his own tea business in Assam, India. However, after his father passed away Nirmal was tasked to take the helm at the Sethia Group, and ventured into a diversified field of trade.
Even so, he was reminded of his love for tea by his wife Chitra, who urged him to get back in the tea trade. Nirmal listened, and ended up founding Newby Teas in 2000. He established a state-of-the-art production facility in his birthplace Calcutta, India, and focused his attention on growing his tea business. After Chitra’s untimely passing in 2010, Sethia wanted to honor her memory, as well as help preserve the cultural history of tea, and restore quality tea culture to its former glory.
The collection encompasses a wide array of artifacts from world history, as well as a selection of personally designed and commissioned pieces. One of those commissioned pieces is “The Egoist”, a diamond and ruby encrusted teapot designed by Sethia himself. This teapot is only big enough for a single cup of tea, and at a value of 3 million is recognized by Guinness World Records as the most expensive teapot in the world.
A few other notable items in the collection are a tea caddy designed by renowned Russian Jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé, a silver teapot given to Winston Churchill’s daughter Mary on her wedding day, and stone ceramics made in 11th to 14th century China. Although the collection is private some pieces have been exhibited at a handful of events throughout the years, however, the N. Sethia Foundation (technically the owners of the collection), is working hard to digitize the vast majority of the collection so people can explore all the artefacts online.