An ancient drink

I just sipped my sage tea (faskomilo) out of a fifth century BC drinking vessel! I’m quite serious, take a look:


These cups are hand-thrown and hand-painted using a clay-based black slip and an ancient manufacturing process that has remained unchanged for thousands of years (the very same manufacturing process that was used to produce Attic pottery in the sixth to fifth centuries B.C.!). For a long time, chemists, archaeologists and ceramicists tried to reproduce the famous Attic black glaze without success. In 1993, archaeological scientist Dr Eleni Aloupi provided the most precise reproduction of the technique (involving carefully selected natural clays and a complex firing technique). Now, she and her team are able to reproduce Attic black pottery that cannot be distinguished from centuries-old originals. Amazing!

The style of this cup is ancient but it is also modern, practical and very comfortable to hold. It makes sense to have the handle this shape and size and positioned so close to the rim and when yours is full of hot tea you will see why. The black slip is luscious to look at and the slight texture of the clay surface makes the cup really pleasant to hold. There is an earthiness and authenticity about drinking from a natural clay vessel. I enjoy imagining that the same cup might have been at an ancient bard’s side as he recited the Odyssey to a wide-eyed audience; or on Aristotle’s desk as he wrote the finishing chapters of his Historia Animalium; or in Herodotus’ rucksack as he travelled around Egypt; and certainly on the bedside or near the loom in the Athenian women’s quarters.

But the real surprise is yet to come. On the base of each cup, there is a delightful painted image to be enjoyed by the person sitting opposite every time the cup is lifted for a drink. It might be a scantily clad male figure, a woman’s head, or some other surprise. What a neat detail.


I can’t think of a more appropriate ancient beverage to sip from this cup than sage tea. This herbal tea (known to modern Greeks as faskomilo <<Φασκόμηλο>>) is made from dried sage leaves grown high in the mountains of Greece. It is much more aromatic and pungent than the type we are familiar with in Australia. It is very high in antioxidants and polyphenols (just like green tea) and it helps with digestion. The many benefits of sage were well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans (such as the Greek physician Dioscorides from the first century AD).

Tea anyone?

For further information visit:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s