Teacup Shapes Compared

Teacup shapes are varied and many. They can be quite mind-boggling, in fact, but a quick comparison will help sort the handy from the not-so-handy, the practical from the impractical, the visually pleasing from the eyesores, and so on. Some folks would probably say that any teacup shape that holds tea is fine. In truth, the shape can have both an aesthetic and a practical side, each of which can affect your tea enjoyment. Let’s start with a couple of handy guides from a couple of well-known potteries. Then, we can look at some other shapes that are common from other makers.


I came across this chart a short time back when looking into this company and their fine products (see Dunoon Tea Mug Design Classics). Each shape has slight differences. From a practical viewpoint, each and everyone of these would do great not only to hold your tea but for you to hold in your hands (especially during the chill of Winter) as you sip. However, generally speaking, the cups that are wider at the top will lose warmth a bit faster (probably not enough for you to even notice) than cups that are straight sided or wider near the bottom (like the one in the middle row, third from the left).

Dunoon Mug Shape Chart (Screen capture from site)
Dunoon Mug Shape Chart (Screen capture from site)

Royal Albert

This is the Royal Albert pottery cup shapes chart (condensed to fit here — see the full version at their site):

Royal Albert pottery cup shapes (Screen capture from site)
Royal Albert pottery cup shapes (Screen capture from site)

Royal Albert Elizabethan ShapeSome of the shapes, such as the Elizabethan, have been around for a long time. (Royal Albert acquired this design in 1972 when they purchased Paragon China, established 1903.)

The cup has a slight pedestal and a shape that is rounded near the bottom and flairs a little at the rim, making drinking a bit easier.

The handle is noteworthy. You will see that it’s not shaped for your figure to go into it, but rather you are supposed to hold it between thumb and forefinger. It takes a bit of practice, but you can master the technique!

Other Shapes

Porcelain Cup & Saucer - Diana Porcelain Cup & Saucer – Diana (ETS image) — Another pedestal cup with a deep saucer and a wide rim. The handle, unlike the Elizabethan above, is shaped so you can hold it with your forefinger through it. The cup body has a slight fluting (the shallow   ridges). This is pretty much an aesthetic enhancement and has no practical   purpose.
Wings of Grace Teacup and Saucer Wings of Grace Teacup and Saucer (ETS image) — This is similar to “Diana” above but had no pedestal or fluting. Another wide-rimmed cup that is for those quick tea times when you don’t need to keep the cup warm for very long. Meal times are another matter, since your cup of tea needs to last at least through half of the entrée course.
Romantic Rose Fine Bone China - Avon Cup and Saucer
Romantic Rose Fine Bone China – Avon Cup and Saucer (ETS image) — A popular shape that is delicate in appearance, has a handle that you can hold with your forefinger in place for extra support, is slightly fluted, and flairs a bit at the rim.
Irish Cup Irish Cup (ETS image) — A not-quite-straight-sided cup with a slightly rolled rim for easier sipping. Great for a hearty cuppa Irish Breakfast or even some Indian Spiced Chai. And I love that pun on the Irish expression “Cead Mile Failte” (see what that means here).

From left to right below: a typical thick-sided diner coffee cup (the sides curve inward, reducing the capacity of the cup), a round-bottomed cup with a slightly flaired rim, a narrow-bottomed cup with a wider rim, and a straight-sided cup. The best for that cup of tea you sip from while eating lunch is the second from the left, in my opinion. However, that coffee cup is good, too, since it keeps the tea pretty warm with its thick sides.

(Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
(Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Just some food for thought for you. Keep it in mind when shopping or when trying to decide which cup to use (it can be very tough sometimes to make a choice).

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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