Teacups come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. Some look like small bowls, while others are ornate and opulent with graceful curvatures, feet, and handles. The material of the teacup is something you’ll want to pay close attention to protect the integrity of your tea.
Where Did The Teacup Come From?
Tea came to fruition thousands of years ago in China. As tea gained momentum throughout the ages as the beverage of choice, tea masters began to guide tea drinkers and ceremonial teas into what we know today as the tea community.
Along with tea masters also came the advent of vessels that tea was served in. These vessels became known as teacups (or tea bowls in Asia.) As the tea trade infiltrated the U.K., it was the English who designed a teacup that featured a handle on it. The tea bowl is still used throughout Asia, while the English version (with the handle) is prominent in westernized cultures.
Things To Look For In A Teacup
There are numerous types of teacups. The material they are made from is vital to fully taking in the aroma and taste of a fine quality tea. A teacup should be comfortable to hold in your hand. Here are a few must-haves when shopping for your own personal teacup.
Must-Have Qualities For The Perfect Cup Of Tea
Is The Teacup Made Of The Right Material To Disperse Heat Quickly So You Can Drink It?
- Material: porcelain (the exception being oolong tea because it is best enjoyed from a clay teacup)
Does The Teacup Fit Comfortably In Your Hand?
- Fit: smaller hands should do fine with porcelain teacups with handles, whereas larger hands should opt for a bowl shape or tea mug.
Does The Teacup Make It Easy To Sip Tea Instead Of Gulping It?
- Lip: tea is meant to be sipped and slowly savored, so a thin-lip (rim) porcelain teacup or mug is ideal.
Does The Teacup Enhance The Color Of The Tea?
- Color: the experience of tea time is elevated by serving certain teas in colored teacups, tea mugs or tea bowls. A hibiscus tisane (herbal tea) pops inside of a white-lined teacup. Blue butterfly pea flower tisane is best served in a glass tea mug so that the tea drinker can take in the gorgeous colors. Sencha (green tea) looks elegant and soothing in tea bowls with hues of turquoise and blue.
Does The Teacup Hold The Same Capacity Of Tea As The Teapot?
- Size: it doesn’t make sense to have a large tea mug to fill with a tiny teapot. The teapot’s capacity should align with the size of the teacup, tea mug, or tea bowl.
What Is The Difference Between A Tea Mug And Teacup?
The physical attributes of a teacup and mug are distinctly apparent. Teacups are typically thinner, smaller, and more delicate than mugs. The wide top and thinner walls of teacups allow for quicker heat dispersal so freshly brewed tea can be enjoyed right away.
Mugs are thicker, larger, and heavier and retain heat, making it challenging to drink freshly brewed tea immediately.
Teacups are made from porcelain, ceramic, glass, earthenware, or clay. These cups are smaller than a tea mug and may or may not have a saucer served as part of the tea service. Teacups may or may not have a handle.
Porcelain teacups are inherently dainty and delicate and are beautiful works of art. Some have ornate handles, hand-painted designs, gold rims, and perhaps the rare image on the bottom that only comes to life after the last sip of tea.
English teacups are typically porcelain and have a handle. The lip of the cup is thin, which forces tea drinkers to sip rather than gulp. The cup is wide at the top and graduates in shape to a small bottom. The handles are just as thin and delicate as the cup.
Various tea cultures in other countries drink tea from teacups of different shapes and materials. Turkey serves tea in tulip-shaped teacups that are usually glass. Some of these teacups may be clear glass, while others are adorned with gold, rhinestones, and other decorative items. Often, the Turkish place the tulip teacup into a metal holder that has a handle to make the hot tea easier to hold.
Asian tea cultures are more apt to drink tea from teacups shaped like bowls void of a handle. These cups (bowls) are made from porcelain, earthenware, or clay. The graceful art of serving tea features cupping the tea bowl between both hands to sip tea. The intrinsic artistry that goes into molding tea bowls makes the finished product more of a piece of artwork than a piece of teaware.
The Tea Mug
Tea mugs may be made from porcelain, ceramic, glass, earthenware, or clay. These mugs are larger, less ornate, taller, and have larger handles. Porcelain tea mugs are best to be able to sip tea from because of the thin lip. Other materials encourage gulping tea because of the thicker lip.
Tea drinkers who prefer a more stout feel to a tea vessel like the tea mug much better. Not only do the mugs have a higher capacity, but the handles are larger compared to a porcelain teacup.
Tea mugs also come in unique shapes. The Asian tea mug used for enjoying oolong tea is made from purple clay (which is high in iron) mined in one place, which is Yixing, China. This mine dates back millions of years to the Paleozoic Age.
Those who drink oolong tea from one of these rare tea mugs never wash the cup but rinse it with water in between uses to preserve the tea oils absorbed into the clay. It’s said that the oils from past cups of oolong enhance future cups of this tea.
Does Tea Taste Different In Different Types Of Teacups?
Tea served in disposable tea cups suffers the most. These types of teacups fail miserably in delivering the best qualities of tea (taste and health benefits.) Tea served in glass, or ceramic tea mugs is okay, but it’s hard to sip tea and relax as teatime is meant to be.
Carefully Choosing The Type Of Teacup Matters
So, now you know why tea connoisseurs prefer the English-style teacup or porcelain tea mug. There’s nothing pretentious about the teacup. It merely has a specific purpose for one to enjoy tea and teatime as it’s meant to be.