In many cultures, tea is an art. People fuss over and are very particular about how it is prepared, served and enjoyed. There are traditions and ceremonies associated with it, and standards set for every aspect of it – the colour, taste and how it is prepared. And there are those who go even further, beholding the pot that stimulates the soul. Habiba and Tariq al Khabouri are fascinated by teapots and have a sizeable collection of these.
Teapots, 150 in all, sit prettily on racks lining walls, cupboards and a balcony at their home in Al Khuwayr. In various shapes and sizes, the colourful collection has been pieced together from all over the world, including India, New Zealand, Pakistan, the UK, US, France and other parts of Europe.
In the shape of guitars, pianos, horses, dining tables, study tables, kitchen sinks, washing machines, sewing machines, huts, dancing couples, dragons, unicorns, accordions, dolls, cars and motorbikes, no two pots are identical. The collection also includes pots shaped in the likeness of Elvis, the Mad Hatter and even Joan Collins from the Dynasty TV series.
A retired professor of Applied Linguistics and English and entrepreneur, Habiba says, “I’ve had a thing for teapots since childhood. They are the epitome of beauty and grace.”
While the collection is mostly ceramic, there are many made of porcelain and some in metal and alloys. In the collection, there are three pots from China with embedded precious stones.
Like a mother loves all her children, Habiba dotes on all her pots, but she is biased towards one. “My personal favourite is a pot from Italy. It’s made of pewter in the shape of an Arab man with his camel.”
Habiba says she collects items from ‘wherever my eyes go’. “From malls, railway stations, flee markets... A thing of beauty always catches my eye.
“There’s contentment and satisfaction in sipping tea from a piece or art – pretty and delicate. It enhances the taste manifold. When guests visit our home, I make sure to serve them with these pots as they add to the ambiance and atmosphere.”
The couple also collects masks, clocks, stones and watches and decorates their home with these.
According to Tariq, founder of Oman Disabled Divers’ Association and liaison manager of International Association of Handicapped Divers, they have been collecting teapots since 1984. “We collect pots from wherever we go; my wife and I love collecting pots. And every cup of tea poured out of our pots will reinvigorate you like a cup of kadak chai.”
Though electric pots have replaced the traditional ceramic and porcelain ones, Habiba and Tariq don’t believe they have the same allure. “An electric kettle can’t be pretty like a porcelain pot. It can never have the same feeling. Having tea is an art which can never be created with electricity,” Habiba declares with finality.