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You already know that a good cup of tea comes from the quality of the tea leaves being used. Another part of the equation is the method used to brew that relaxing, hot beverage. However, the final part of the puzzle is the actual tea cup or mug used to consume the tea.
Believe it or not, the teacup can have an impact on the quality of the tea that has been poured into it to be served. Some of the factors we will explore when looking at the different types of tea cups available include looking at the design, construction and material used in the production of tea cups.
The Qualities of A Good Tea Cup
There really is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all tea cup. That’s because for tea lovers who savor their tea, the cup has to possess several key qualities in order to not have a negative effect on the taste, temperature or aroma of a good cup of tea. They include the following:
A porous material will contain microscopic holes and cracks which will actually hold in various flavors. The porous material will also have an impact on aroma as well. Both of these factors will be detrimental to the taste of the tea coming from a cup made with porous material.
The shape of the tea cup will impact how quickly tea will cool. A cup that has a wide rim will cool tea faster, whereas tall and narrow cups will keep tea hot for a longer period of time. The longer tea remains hot, the more concentrated the aroma. Thin cups tend to cool quicker and ceramic cups hold the heat longer.
There is a little physics involved in the construction design of the perfect teacup. For example, tea cups with thin lips are best because of how they deliver the hot beverage into your mouth. A thin lip allows tea to roll off the edge of the cup and onto your tongue with ease.
Although plastic cups are not the most ideal choice for drinking tea, they are used by many. Paper cups are also common as take-out drinking containers from fast food and coffee shops all over the world. If you use either, ensure that they are made from BPA (bisphenol A) free material.
The Best Material Used For Tea Cups
Just as there are certain qualities of a teacup that can impact the flavor and aroma of a good cup of tea, the material the teacup is made from is as crucial. As noted above, porous materials should be avoided. Here is a look at the other popular materials used in the production of tea cups.
This is probably the most common material used to make tea cups. The term ceramic is a reference to any kind of tea cup that is made from a baked clay pottery that is fired in a kiln. This would include teacups made of stoneware, porcelain and terracotta.
What makes ceramic tea cups such a popular choice is that they will retain heat for a longer period of time compared to most other tea cup materials. This is due to the heat resistance of the material which also removes metallic or other material tastes that may occur.
With a centuries-long use as tea ware, both bone china and porcelain are good choices. Porcelain, which is often considered a ceramic, is non-porous when is has been manufactured correctly. This means that with the vitrified glaze outer shell, porcelain tea cups are non-reactive.
Bone ash mixed with clay is the main ingredients in bone china which also has a glaze finish that makes these tea cups non-reactive and non-porous. The smoothness of both porcelain and bone china prevents tannin from tea adhering to the sides of the cup which will not negatively impact the body of the beverage.
Glass is a good material for many reasons as teaware. Not only can it be effective in brewing tea, but vitrified glass is also non-reactive. Borosilicate glass is an excellent teacup material which is less fragile than porcelain.
There are also double-walled glass teacups which are both practical and functional. The gap between the inner and outer glass creates an insulating layer, while the outer one stays cool to the touch.
Although a stainless-steel teacup will outlast any other kind, they do have a couple of issues. First, due to the heat conductivity of steel, they tend to get far too hot to handle. Second, scratched steel can leach iron and nickel into your steaming hot drink.
Plastic and paper cups do serve a purpose but are typically designed for single use. If they do not contain food-grade materials – the plastic cups in particular – there is a chance they may leach toxic chemicals into your tea just from being exposed to high heat.
Plus, as single-use in design, plastic and paper cups are not good for the environment.
Tea Cup Designs
There are essentially two main designs of teacups… Those with handles and those without. The style with handles can vary greatly from simple to ornate depending on the material the tea cup is made from as well as the purpose of the cup. Teacups used for formal tea ceremonies tend to have more decorative designs and handles.
Tea cups without handles are actually known as tea bowls. Tea bowls are common in Asian tea culture and are often much smaller in size than tea cups with handles. There are various types of tea bowls ranging from iron and wooden bowls to triangular and four-sided tea bowls. All are used to prepare and drink tea from.
In many countries around the world, tea is far more than just an afternoon beverage. Probably the best known of the tea customs is the daily afternoon tea that is a mainstay in Great Britain. Tea ceremonies originated centuries ago from the Chinese and other East Asian countries have their own variation of the ceremony.
Tea ceremonies are also common in Japan and Korea although the beverage itself may be even more distinct in preparation, ingredients, and service. In these Asian countries, tea is consumed at tea parties which are actually small gatherings of friends as well as at tea houses which are intended for social interaction.
In fact, tea culture has spanned the globe from Asia and Europe to Africa, North and South America and to Australia and New Zealand. Different varieties of tea are favored in different regions and flavorings such as herbs, sugar and milk are found as regional adaptations of what makes the perfect cup of tea.
And because tea has become so popular, there are many tea accessories that you can find on the market. Click here to view some of our favorite tea accessories.
There is a lot more to that cup of tea than meets the eye, nose and taste buds. The way it is prepared, and the vessel used to serve it, can have a huge impact on the aroma and flavor of the tea. This is why it is important to known what types of tea cups are best so you can enjoy your favorite cup of tea.