Teas and hot drinks that aren’t officially ‘teas’, such as herbal infusions and whole fruits are now consumed by millions of us around the world. Of course, what cup you use is seen as an important part of the ritual of tea drinking.
Cup choices are endless, available in many sizes, shapes and materials. All influenced by different traditions, cultures, trends and styles.
Specific cups are used for various reasons; cultural traditions, passed on by generations, our day to day activities (reaching for the largest mug possible) or special occasions; when the best tea set only comes out a few times a year.
The ways of preparing and drinking teas has evolved considerably over the centuries and according to the preferences of each culture and country in the world.
Originally teas and other infusions were considered a luxury beverage, reserved for the elites, royalty and aristocratic societies. Or consumed for medicinal benefits. It has since become a drink for everyone to enjoy around the world.
Technically, there is no right or wrong cup to use, it’s all about what you prefer to drink out of, but here we take a deep dive into the different types and why they are chosen.
Traditionally in East Asia (where tea originated from) it is more common to drink teas in small cups (or bowls) without handles, in porcelain or earthenware. This is the same as other beverages in ancient civilisations in Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and throughout Europe.
For example, in China, tea cups are made small, encouraging light sipping and for refilling, as most of the teas are brewed more than once. Usually used when tasting pure and high-quality teas, mostly white, green, oolong’s and puerh’s (aged black Tea).
While in Japan they use slightly larger and deeper tea cups and tea bowls (Chawan), often with unusual designs. Mostly for tea ceremonies, matcha preparations and also to enjoy pure and high-quality teas (mostly greens).
It has also been popular and traditional to drink most of the teas mentioned, using small iron tea cups. They are coated with an enamel glaze, applied to the inside surface to protect the tea infusion from touching the metal and to prevent rusting with time.
PORCELAIN CUPS AND SAUCERS:
Over time and with the advancement of world trade, the ways of drinking tea has been adapted into Western society’s customs and preferences. By adding a handle to the cup (to avoid hands from directly touching the heated cup) and a saucer (plate) to hold the cup and to keep it balanced and stable. As well as allowing space to keep the teaspoon handy, next to the cup.
Porcelain teacups and saucers are universally recognised as the tea drinking symbol in the West, and as part of social gatherings in high societies across Europe. Nowadays, teacups and saucers are reserved for afternoon teas (mostly for high quality black teas and blends like darjeeling’s, as well as high grade whites and green teas) and for special occasions, when having guests at home.
Mugs are popular mostly in Western societies, particularly in the USA and Europe. Available in a range of materials such as porcelain, earthenware, glass and even hard plastic. Usually they hold a large volume of tea, reducing the need for multiple refills.
They are common to use for a quick brew, using teabags. In a more relaxed home or office environment to enjoy an everyday strong black blend, herbal infusion, whole fruit and/or flavoured green/black teas (and perhaps being infused inside the mug using a straight to cup filter).
Tea Glass is common in some cultures where it is traditional to drink particular teas.
For example, Moroccan tea glasses are decorated with beautiful patterns, with a range of designs and colours, and are used for mostly Moroccan mint tea, but can also be used for any type of infusion or fruit blend.
While the Turkish glass and saucer, made in a tulip shape, with its outward-curving mouth, protects the drinker’s hands from getting the heat. They are usually used for traditional Turkish black tea, Turkish apple tea and also for any other type of infusions or fruit blends.
The Russian tea glass and holder, is a glass cup placed inside a filigreed metal holder base with a metallic handle.
In general, most glass cups or mugs are used for infusions and fruit blends and for displaying flower blossom teas. Although very pretty, glass is a little more difficult to hold when hot, but it is worth the wait!