Most people have their favourite cup or mug. For some it may be that they have one for coffee and one for tea. It’s all down to personal preference, however the teacup or mug that you drink from plays a big part in how your choice of tea goes down.
Both the Chinese and Japanese have as long a history with teacups as they do with tea. In both regions, the vessel is not only a utilitarian tool, but also a very personal item with cultural, social and political dimensions.
Traditional Chinese designed, or Gong Fu, teacups are small, ceramic cups without a handle. The bowl-like cups come in a wide range of colours and designs.
Traditional teacups are small, holding just 30–40ml, or a few mouthfuls of tea. This is due to a number of reasons, it means the tea will not go cold before you finish it, but it’s also the perfect amount when drinking strong infusions.
The size of everyday cups can change the texture of the tea – you may notice the difference when you brew in a teapot compared to brewing directly in the mug. This is because the shape of the cup does not allow the heat to dissipate evenly.
Ideally a teacup should be wider at the top, with an even angle to the bottom, this allows the tea to cool correctly so you’ve less chance of burning your tongue. Taller cups or mugs will allow you to appreciate the aroma of the tea better, but may not cool as evenly.
If you are choosing a cup with a handle, make sure it’s a comfortable fit for you and try to find out how sturdy it feels when the cup is filled.
Porcelain or glass are the ideal choices for teacups, both will do very little to spoil the taste of the tea. Thicker cups will retain heat for longer, but are less pleasing on the lips than thinner ones.
There is a huge variety of teaware on the market and while personal preference should play a large part in your choice, it is worthwhile considering the impact that it will have on the taste and enjoyment of your drink.