History of Porcelain

Since the beginning, our aim has been to stand out by offering a top quality product and service , choosing excellence above quantity. Needless to say that offering a product that originates from China was in the past, and is still today, quite an obstacle in the promotion of our product.

Undoubtedly many of the suspicions and the mistrust concerning Chinese products in general, are largely well founded and justified; in most cases, China is chosen as the preferred manufacturer only because of low labour costs, and not for a specific skill and know-how in the manufacture of a particular product. In these cases the aim is exclusively to reduce production costs, and without doubt the only possible outcome will be a cheap and low quality product.

However, the history of porcelain has no connection to the banal Chinese production. China’s recent past has had very few periods of enlightenment, but in history this great empire was the cradle of some of the most important inventions, like the compass, gunpowder, paper, printing and obviously porcelain.

Even if some rudimentary kinds of ceramic were already used in China in the first centuries AD, it was only at the end of the first millennium that porcelain as we know it today, came into being, obtained by the fusion of kaolin and feldspar, with its peculiar characteristics of brilliance, whiteness and strength which makes it so special.

Until that time, only gold and silver were considered suitable to adorn the royal tables of the world; but seeing the quality and splendour of some of these products, it is easy to understand how, in a short period of time Chinese porcelain became extremely widespread, initially among the Chinese Emperors, and thereafter in the royal houses throughout Europe.
Chinese porcelain reached its apex during the Ming and Qind Dynasties, when Chinese porcelain became a real status symbol, so much so that the word “China” was used in Europe as a synonym of “porcelain”.

The first porcelain products arrived in Europe as gifts or donations to royal and noble families during official visit by Chinese ambassadors, but very soon the increasing popularity of porcelain, and the inability to produce similar products in Europe, established a solid export toward Europe. The most important royal and noble families all placed large orders to adorn their palaces. But notwithstanding the fact that each single piece was marked with the effigy of the client, the decorations were still based on oriental styles and culture. The faces and people on the decorations all had oriental features, due to the inability of Chinese decorators to reproduce European features and landscapes.
In the XVIth century the search for the formula of porcelain became an obsession for many royal families in Europe, but notwithstanding all their efforts, Europe would have to wait until the year 1709, almost 8 centuries after discovery by the Chinese, for a German alchemist, generously financed by August of Sassonia, to establish the first porcelain production in Europe and the founding of the Meissen Factory.

From this first small step, the diffusion and spread of porcelain in Europe would continue quickly, so much so that less than 50 years later, significant production sites had spread throughout the major European countries.
Nonetheless, the popularity of Chinese porcelain in Europe, was such that for some decades the new German, French and English factories continued to produce, or rather re-produce, copies of the Chinese shapes and decorations. It’s only after the year 1750, that in Germany and France there was the move to make products with an original design, echoing a more European style. For this reason, some of the most famous painters and sculptors of the period, predecessors of the modern “designers”, were involved in the development of new products.
From this point on, China and Europe took two different paths; in Europe, the industrial revolution was soon extended to porcelain production, making it gradually a product affordable for most of the population; on the contrary in China, the production was still limited and available only to the nobles and the rich, a choice that lead to its decline during the Mao era.
After the communist period under Mao, an initial and slow re-discovery of private entrepreneurship started after the year 1980, and this is the start of our history too.

Our first contact with China came about a few years later, in 1990. We must admit that in these 7 years, the general conditions and facilities were not that different. During our first visit to the Canton Fair, which lasted 10 days, we were unable to find one single product suitable for distribution in Europe. Nonetheless, what was immediately clear, was the unbelievable willingness and curiosity which characterized all these new small Chinese Entrepreneurs, they were different from our previous European and Thai partners.

Our interest in the coffee business started in the early nineties. We must honestly admit, as some of our customers can testify, that some of our first experiences were not satisfying, not only due to the poor quality of the product, but perhaps also due to our lack of experience and know-how in the world of coffee.

Our know-how in the porcelain business was linked to the household item for daily use, and it took us at least 2 years and some mistakes to acquire the specific knowledge of the needs of the coffee business, like strength, brand perfection and quality stability.

Moreover, despite the sheer willingness and motivation of the new Chinese entrepreneurs, after a few experiences we understood that to achieve our goal to produce an excellent product, it was compulsory to select one, and only one, excellent producer . After cooperating and testing more than 40 different factories over the years, we went through a difficult process to select the one that above all the others shared our same vision and ambition, and who gained our complete and unreserved trust.

A factory exclusively oriented to the production of jars and bathroom accessories, was almost entirely converted to the production of porcelain cups for coffee roasting, reaching today a production capability of 20 million pieces per year, with 5 million distributed in Italy.

Once more we would like to thank the most courageous and trusting of our customers, who, despite the first imperfect productions, have sustained us, reconfirming their trust and allowing our company to acquire the necessary know-how, and reach the level of excellence that we have always pursued and that today is acknowledged by everyone.

CARLO BARBI
CEO CLUB HOUSE S.R.L.