Traditionally, and even in some modern homes, tea time is a sacred matter. There are rules of etiquette involved and proper decorum must be established.
While many revere it just as much, coffee generally does not have the same rules or regulations. The cups you choose for each drink reflect your education around the subject as well as your understanding of the equipment involved.
So what’s the difference between teacups and coffee cups? Surprisingly, there are several differences between tea mugs and coffee mugs in terms of shape, size, and handle design. The teacups are designed to be elegant, held lightly, and cool the liquid quickly, but the coffee cups are designed to be gripped in the hand and to stay warm.
This article will go over how and why teacups and coffee mugs are made the way they are. Once you understand the design, you can select the appropriate mug for any occasion.
What is a cup of tea?
A teacup is designed for drinking hot tea, as the name suggests.
Many people pour tea into any cup that suits them, but teacups have been designed to maximize the flavor, temperature, and ease of brewing tea in a way that allows for polished drinking habits.
Everything about a traditional teacup serves a purpose, from the material used to make the teacup to the size of the mouth and even the style of the handles.
Teacups are rarely purchased or served on their own, but rather they come as a set. A traditional tea set will at a minimum consist of a cup and saucer, or several cups and saucers, but often also includes a tea plate or a sandwich plate.
A complete set will also be delivered with a matching teapot as well as a small jug for the cream, a sugar bowl, and possibly a slop bowl, to empty the cold tea dregs before filling your cup.
What are teacups made of?
Teacups are usually made from a high-quality ceramic material called porcelain or porcelain which are the same thing.
Premium teacups are even made from bone china, which has the addition of bone ash for durability and a beautiful translucent finish.
Teacups and tea sets are usually decorated with specific designs and are usually very limited in their production. Some tea sets become extremely valuable if the print is scarce and is no longer in production.
Cup of tea measure
Teacups can come in different sizes, depending on where they are made. In China, the cups are designed to hold a maximum of 30mL of liquid.
The teacups have a specific shape, designed to cool quickly from a boil to an easily drinkable temperature. For this reason, they are shallow, with a wide, open mouth.
In some recipes, you will see a cup of tea listed as a unit of measurement, the same as a teaspoon or just a cup. This is especially common in Indian recipes or cookbooks.
If you meet this measurement, it is equal to 190 ml or about 4/5 of a cup in the American standard volume.
Not all teacups come with handles, but those that do are designed to be held gently, between your thumb and one or two fingers.
It does not allow a good grip, which is why the teacups are small in size. Thus, they cannot be too heavy or too difficult to hold properly.
The one-finger handles, which move away from the slope of the teacup, keep your fingers away from the cup itself, which can be quite hot from the boiling water. They are therefore designed for safety and delicacy.
Traditional teacups made in Asian countries are less likely to have handles. In fact, they are sometimes referred to as tea bowls. But most European models will have handles, as described.
What is a coffee cup?
Again, as the name suggests, a coffee mug is a mug designed for drinking coffee.
However, there are as many types of coffee as there are coffee cups, which makes them quite different from teacups.
Rather, the similarity lies in the fact that they are designed specifically for the drink they are named after.
What are coffee cups made of?
Coffee cups, like teacups, are usually made from ceramic. There are gourmet collections that include coffee mugs which in design are very similar to teacups with their patterns.
Coffee has become a more casual affair, and it’s more likely to be included in a standard everyday dinnerware set or as a one-off, stand-alone design.
Many people also take their coffee with them on their daily adventures, which has encouraged the growing popularity of travel mugs, which are more likely to be made of stainless steel, which is another heat-protective material.
There are, of course, also disposable coffee cups. Many restaurants and cafes will also serve tea in these cups, although they were designed primarily for coffee.
Disposable cups are mostly paper, although some also have a very thin, almost waxy liner to add durability which is made from polyethylene plastic.
Coffee cup sizes
As mentioned earlier, there are many different ways to brew coffee which impacts the size of the cup it is served in.
Lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, and Americanos are often served in extra-large, round cups that allow for plenty of milk, froth, or boiling water.
Lattes and mochas can also be served in wide, short, and flat cups to display latte art. Traditional cappuccino cups can be a bit smaller and rounder to hold in the hand.
On the other hand, an espresso is only an ounce of pure, unadulterated coffee, and is therefore served in a much smaller cup, just like traditional macchiatos of about the same size.
An American 1-cup measure is 237 ml or 8 fluid ounces, which is also the traditional size of a coffee mug purchased for daily home use in America.
However, Americans love their coffee, so the typical coffee mug grows at 12 or even 16 ounces for home use.
It is also important to note that these measurements differ once you are outside of North America. You may find that the coffee cup sizes are different if you are traveling to Europe or Asia.
If you go to a cafe or buy take-out coffee, the standard coffee cup sizes are 8 ounces for a small, 12 ounces for a regular, 16 ounces for a large, and, if applicable, 20 to 24 ounces. for an extra-large.
Of course, depending on the cafe, these sizes can also have their own unique names, such as Tall instead of Wide. Again, Americans really love their coffee, so it’s not unusual to see a 12-ounce cup labeled “small” either.
Coffee cup shapes
Unlike tea, coffee is usually not made with boiling water, at least not directly, as it can burn the beans.
It doesn’t need to cool down that quickly – in fact, a lot of people like their coffee to stay hot for as long as possible. For this reason, the shape of a standard coffee cup is quite different from the shape of a teacup.
A basic cup of coffee will be tall and narrow, with a less exposed surface for heat to escape.
Related tea and coffee questions
Porcelain Vs Fine Bone China?
Porcelain and standard porcelain are the same product but have different names depending on their location.
In the United States, you’re more likely to refer to your gourmet dishes as porcelain, but if you’re in Europe, you probably prefer the term porcelain, which means seashell in Latin.
Fine porcelain is different in that it is made with an additional ingredient: bone ash. This gives the dishes a unique color that is almost translucent.
It is also less brittle, and although it is thinner than porcelain, it is less likely to break. The durability increases with the percentage of bone ash.
Bone porcelain is the most exclusive option and therefore the most expensive. These products contain animal products, so they are not considered completely vegan.
Can you pour boiling water into bone china?
You should never expose your fine china or fine china to extreme variations in temperature as this could cause them to crack or even shatter.
You can pour boiled water into porcelain, but it shouldn’t be a cold cup, it should be at least room temperature if it isn’t even warmed slightly beforehand.
A good approach would be to run your fine china under warm or hot tap water before adding boiling water for your tea or coffee. Ideally, you’ll also let the boiled water sit for a minute or two before pouring it in.
Agnes is a kitchen and cooking enthusiast as well as a fitness fanatic. She loves to help readers upgrade their kitchen with the best available products!