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What is the Best Type of Cup for Tea?

Drinking premium loose-leaf tea is a joy, but does your choice of cup or mug affect the flavour?  In this article, we consider the different types of teacup and which would be best for your chosen brew.
Sitting down with a steaming cup of tea is one of life’s simple pleasures. You may already have a favourite teacup or mug, but as a Buckinghamshire tea specialist, we want to share the best options.

Tea Drinking; a full sensory experience
The first thing to note is that flavour is reliant on more than our tongues. The visual presentation and aromas combine with our tastebuds to create flavour. You can try this for yourself.  Simply pinching your nose when you eat or drink and experience a loss of flavour. For this reason, our choice of teacup or mug should provide a full sensory experience.

Types of Tea Cups & Mugs
Teacups are made from  many different types of material. Let’s consider the options.

Bone China & Porcelain Cups
In the UK, the finest afternoon tea was served in bone china cups. This delicate material was smooth and translucent, yet stronger than porcelain.  As a non-porous material, these dainty ceramic cups held the tea flavour. Sipping tea from the thin lip allows the tea to flow easily across the tastebuds.

Bone China and porcelain cups are fragile and might be reserved for special occasions. They are, however, ideal for showcasing the delicate flavours of Darjeeling, White and Oolong tea.

“I don’t drink tea to wake up, I wake up to drink tea!”

Glass Cups
In India, the traditional Chai is served in glass teacups and glass is widely used in Morocco for their sweetened mint tea. These glass cups are typically tall and narrow. This shape holds the heat and flavour for longer. Like bone china, glass is smooth and non-porous, making it a suitable material for a cup of tea.
You certainly showcase the colour of tea in a glass cup. Glass is ideal for iced tea, tea cocktails and is the only option for showcasing the opening of dragon flower tea.

Ceramic & Stoneware Mugs
For an everyday brew, ceramic or stoneware mugs are a popular choice.  A large mug of tea is comforting and there is a practical consideration.  Ceramics and stoneware are more robust; it is fine to pour in boiling water (with glass or porcelain cups, milk is added first or the water poured off the
boil to reduce the risk of breakages). The thicker rim does encourage a gulp, rather than a sip, so less flavour hits the tastebuds, but mugs can work for stronger, black English Breakfast and Assam tea.

Ceramic tea sets are also widely used in traditional tea ceremonies in China. Here the cups are small and have no handles. The green tea is regularly topped up with each cupful offering a variety of strength. This regular refill reduces the need to retain the heat.

Plastic Cups & Refillable Mugs
Plastic cups are not recommended as the ideal vessel for quality tea. As an environmentally conscious business, we are absolutely against single-use plastic or Styrofoam cups. We do, however, recognise that some refillable cups are made from plastic. These can be practical, but check they are BVA free, to ensure that no chemicals leak into the tea. We would recommend alternative materials,
look for metal, bamboo or glass refillable cups.

What makes a Perfect Cup of Tea?
Whether you favour a delicate cup and saucer, a mug or a refillable cup for your daily brew, here are four factors to consider.

  1. A non-porous cup or mug will ensure that all the flavour remains in the drink. Look for a thin, tapered rim to ensure more tea hits your tastebuds and remember that taller, narrow designs are most effective for retaining heat and flavour
  2. Opt for a look that is in keeping with the tea (Chinese tea set for green tea, bowls for matcha tea, glasses for Moroccan mint and bone china cup and saucer for afternoon tea) for a more authentic experience.
  3. In addition to the vessel, take note of the ideal water temperature and brewing time. Too hot or too long can add bitterness to the flavour. Add milk and or sugar as required.
  4. When pouring tea from a teapot, lift it high to oxygenate the tea as it enters the cup. This slightly cools the tea, making it ready to drink and many believe it also enhances the flavour.

Buckinghamshire Tea Specialist
As tea specialists, Holy Cow Tea offers premium, loose-leaf straight teas and our bespoke blends.
Our Aylesbury boutique includes tea accessories including cups, teapots and caddies. If you are looking for gifts for tea lovers, we also offer a range of items online.

Shop Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 10am until 5pm

If you are interested in wholesale tea supplies, contact Poonam on 01296 485158

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