Sunday, 13 February 2011

hot at the outset, but quickly cold

Read a post at Alex Zorach's teablog recently, which was inspired by another post at J-TEA International's The Oolong Tea Times about drinking tea out of dainty little cups versus big sturdy mugs.

Here's the original:

The Oolong Tea Times

And here's Alex's take:

One Advantage to Drinking Tea from a Mug

Then I got into a discussion about it with other tea drinkers on twitter, and realised I've held back the fact that I often drink out of a mug. For some reason, it doesn't seem like the actions of a tea obsessive to be swigging from these bulky ceramic mugs. And the point J-Tea makes is really true: mugs are ineffective.

As he says, 'As soon as the tea is ready, it is too hot to drink. Then, near the end of the mug, the tea is cool. This wide range in temperature combined with the volume of tea results in a very narrow window in which tea stays at the ideal temperature for consumption. This problem is particularly exaggerated with using large mugs.'

I'm not yet planning on giving up my mugs, but what he describes is definitely the case. Above you'll see a mug with a picture of a happy Bavarian with his little Dachshund, which always puts me in a better mood. Here's a mug I found years ago at the Chagall Museum in Nice. It also makes me smile every time I pull it out of the cupboard.

And here's a ridiculous one I found on the Baltic Sea a while back. It's a very thick ceramic mug. Always works for me. If by working for me, you mean 'It's too hot at the outset and too cold at the end'. That's not really working for me now that I think about it. Nevertheless, when I'm feeling a bit whimsical, it's nice to have a cup that bends in the direction the wind blows.

When I brew Oolong, I use the little cups that I got with this teapot. Well I should say, I pour the two little cups full, but then I fill what's left in a big ungainly mug. I love the way the tea tastes from these little cups.

This is the cup that goes with our dishes, and I really like the pattern. When I serve tea to guests, this is what I normally use. Although the tea doesn't necessarily stay warm that long, I'm too busy pouring a new cup for you to notice.

And finally, here's a Herm├Ęs cup and saucer that always makes me nervous. While I'm drinking from this cup, I'm not enjoying the tea. I'm very simply trying not to break the cup. That's no way to enjoy tea, is it?

Am wondering how the rest of you enjoy your tea. I often try to open up such a topic to discussion with varying results. So I'll ask a few pointed questions:

Have you ever thought about the impact what sort of cup has on the way a tea tastes?

Do you like thin, bone China sometimes?

If you still prefer a mug, then why?


  1. I always use a big, thick mug. Both for tea and for coffee. Partially because of the mug itself and its memories, but I actually like the variation of temperature - I have half a spoon of sugar in my (normal) tea so as it gets cooler, it doesn't worsen the flavour, just alters it somewhat...

  2. I love the mugs you have picture here!

    I'm glad I'm sparking some dialogue.

    It's funny, yesterday I served Earl Grey tea, produced in Turkey, in small Chinese tea cups. It was oddly cross-cultural but quite enjoyable. I decided to follow up by posting about why I enjoy small cups too.

  3. love those mugs! I have a few fancy cups and saucers, but I keep them for display, not really for use. I have a few small yixing cups that I also use for oolong, but I prefer my glass cups (smaller than mugs, slightly bigger than cups) for every day use. mostly because I like to see the color of the tea through them. But I also prefer my tea on the cooler side (not cold, but not too hot).

  4. I have mugs, small cups...
    It depends on my mood.

    Have you ever tried to put less tea in your mug?

  5. Ice, are you implying that I have a tea drinking problem? That I drink too much tea?