While I firmly believe that the very best cup of tea can be made only with fresh loose leaves, I have to admit to using a teabag every now and then. Like when I’m rushed and just need a quick cuppa, or if someone offers me tea at their home. It doesn’t happen often, and when I do use bagged tea I much prefer the pyramid-shaped sachets that at least allow the leaves a fighting chance to infuse.

There was a time, however, before I learned how to prepare a proper pot of tea, when my tea ritual consisted of a teabag steeping in a mug. This was long before sachets were invented. The teabag would be attached to a short string that was in turn attached to a little paper tag, usually bearing the name of the manufacturer, the tea, or both. Most teabags are still made this way.

Aside from what I consider the lesser quality of the resulting cup, a problem with teabags is that it’s awkward trying to figure out what to do with the spent teabag. If there’s no saucer, do you put it on your upturned spoon or in the ashtray, or carry it to the garbage can while it drips on the floor? (A guest of mine once decided that the best place to park a drippy teabag was not on her saucer but on a small inlaid wooden table in my living room.)

Apparently other tea drinkers shared this dilemma, because some brilliant person – or, more likely, a frustrated teabag user – came up with the idea of adding a little pouch onto the side of a mug for depositing the used teabag. Hey! This was a really neat idea! Now I could drink my tea and not have to worry about what to do with the soggy teabag.

My handmade mug, elegantly handling any teabag. (Photo source: article author)

My handmade mug, elegantly handling any teabag. (Photo source: article author)

I shopped around, and the first pouch mug that I liked was at a handicrafts fair. It was perfect: wheel-thrown stoneware embellished with natural and blue glazes. It had a good feel to it, and was thick enough to hold comfortably in my hands when it was full of hot tea. The sign next to the display of these mugs described them as kangaroo mugs – get it, a mug with a pouch?

The design of this particular mug solved a third teabag problem: If you’ve ever used a string-and-tag teabag, you know that it can be difficult to keep the string and tag from falling into the tea. This mug has a little slit in the rim; you thread the string through it, catching the tag which blocks it from slipping down into the mug. Clever!

Well, I bought that mug and sipped my tea out of it for many years. It proved particularly handy for drinking tea at work. I also discovered that the little pouch can be used for other things as well. Like holding a packet of sweetener, or for tucking in a cookie or two to accompany my tea.

Although they’re not as common as standard mugs, you can find them at many tea shops, housewares stores, gift shops, and other specialty shops, both online and walk-in. And at handicrafts fairs of course. Call them pouch mugs, pocket mugs, sidekick mugs, or kangaroo mugs, they’re available in a variety of sizes, styles, and colours, both manufactured and handmade. Some even have lids for use while the tea is steeping. Whether you use teabags regularly or occasionally, a kangaroo mug is a charming way to go about it.

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