This is an excellent time of the year to start a tradition of drinking and serving hot tea. For the summer months I love ice tea, but as the weather starts to cool, a nice calming tea to relieve stress is in my cup. Especially during these months when we are so busy with kids off to school and the upcoming holidays, it's such a refreshing contrast in the midst of the hustle and bustle.

But where do you put the tea bags, the loose tea strainer or strainer spoon when serving tea? Do you put it on a napkin, the tea cup saucer or do you have a tea bag holder on the table?

A tea bag holder is also known as a tea bag caddy. For us who drink bagged teas, a tea bag holder is a must have. Why? Because it is a place to set your steeped tea bag, spoon or strainer with no mess and no stain on the counter-top or light colored work or table surface.

Many folks purchase tea bag holders in multiple colors, shapes and even whimsy holders, like those cat and dog lovers. And some folks have an extensive collection.

The tea bag holders can be found made of English bone china, porcelain, ceramic, melamine or pewter and can be found from round, teapot shaped, leaf shaped to animal shaped in vibrant solids, elegant white or in a variety of designs.

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A tea bag holder is often small in size, with typical measurements of 3 1/2 by 4 3/4 inches and can even be purchased as part of a set with matching teapot, cups and saucers. Some are also known as a tea bowl or plate.

They also were once an advertising tool and some from the 1950s sell with a cheerful face and a phrase such as “I’ll hold your bag.”

Pricewise, everyday tea bag holders have held their own pretty much throughout the years. The price range can vary for high quality or the exceptional holder. Tea bag holders can run between $2 and $10 at most antique and gift shops, tea houses and big box stores. Holders from any prominent pottery or china company would be priced accordingly higher.

These collectibles can be found most anywhere and like most small items, they are an overlooked collectible. They can be found at some estate and garage sales, thrift and antique malls along with tea houses or where tea is sold.

One of the big plusses about collecting tea bag holders is their size. As any butter pat or salt collector can tell you, small lets you collect more because you don't need so much space to display and/or store them.

“I am always shopping for cat-items for the shop and for my own personal use," said Bobbi Schlesselman, owner of The Cat-Tail, Fountain City, Wis. "When I finally found a cat tea bag holder, it was the whimsy look that I liked and I can even use it as a tea light holder. Some customers even use them as a spoon rest by the stove or on the counter.”

Kyra Wyn Beske, manager at Curiosi Tea-House in Winona said new fall flavored blends of tea are in stock now and more teabag holders are on order and are expected to be in later this month.

For those who don't want to wait, "check out our best-selling snail tea bag string holders," she said. " Sharks and squirrels are now available to keep you company while you sip tea from your favorite teacup or mug.”

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at life@postbulletin.com.