Teacups come in a wide array of sizes and shapes. They all have that essential characteristic: being able to hold tea liquid. But from there they cover quite a design spectrum. To keep this down to a manageable size (we’re talking blog article here, not doctoral dissertation), I will limit my coverage here to five teacup styles, based on general design, materials, and period.
1 Cups without Handles
These are often called “sipper cups.” They are probably the oldest form of tea cup. To use them properly you need to put two fingers under and your thumb on top of the cup. I use an alternate method where I fill the cup only about two-thirds full so that the top edge remains relatively cool. I can then lift by that edge and sip without scorching my fingertips.
2 Footed Cups
This style was explored in a previous article but still deserves mention here as a distinctive style. There are two basic versions: feet and pedestals. Either way, they do not serve a really practical purpose. They simply make the teacup seem more delicate and are usually on teacups that are part of cup/saucer sets.
3 Lidded Cups
These are ceramic usually and have lids made to match the cup. The lid serves two practical purposes: first, if you steep in the cup, the lid will help the tea steep better; second, after steeping the lid will help the tea stay warm longer.
4 Travel Cups
Some are meant for steeping and drinking tea. Others are best for steeping in a teapot and then pouring the tea into the travel cup to keep it warm and from spilling as you drive, jog, etc. Some are overly complicated and therefore of little practical use while others are simple and very utilitarian.
5 Cups Made of Unusual Materials
Leaving out Styrofoam, paper, and even heavy plastic, there are some other materials used to make teacups but much less frequently than the usual porcelain, ceramic, metal, and glass. One is wood, including bamboo. Another is semi-precious stone (onyx, agate, etc.) using a super adhesive to attach spouts, handles, and lid finials.
Whatever cup style you choose, be sure to fill it with a tea worthy of such a vessel. Enjoy!
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