When A Teacup Is Not Just A Teacup

As I was making tea the other day it struck me that I have numerous tea drinking vessels. I have an assortment of tea cups, mugs and other drink ware. All tea drinkware however does not look the same. There are various style differences, color variations, and design features. Pictured here are two very different types of drinking receptacles. Please take a close look; there are similarities and one key difference between the two varied cups. 

The White Cup 

The white cup is a unique and eloquent drinking vessel. It is extremely similar to a regular cup but with two exceptions. The cup does not have an accompanying saucer and it has a partially divided top section. The section extends half way down the inside of the mug. This area has three holes in it, and the top section tapers down to a thin bottom edge where the holes are placed. Any idea what this type of mug is used for? Take a guess…. 

The white cup is designed for hot tea. It has an ingenious inside pocket to store the used tea bag. The three holes in the bottom of the section are for drainage of the tea bag once it is placed there. The partioned off part of the tea mug is made of the same material (porcelain) and goes partially down into the mug. The area stays warm and allows the tea bag to stay warm as well. Perfect for re-using the tea bag again. The tea bag’s warmth will not take away from the water’s tempurature once submerged into the water for another steeping. 

The Floral Tea Cup and Saucer 

I found this mug in an antique store years ago. I was on a family fishing vacation and decided to spend some quality time perusing through an antique store where the building itself could have been considered an antique! This particular cup and saucer set caught my eye. I asked the owner why this cup was created this way and they did not have a solid answer. I brought the cup home, placed it in a cabinet and promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t until several years later, while I was researching the topic of tea etiquette for a tea class I was conducting, that I ran across a photo of a cup and saucer very similar in design to mine. This particular cup was designed during the Victorian times. Does this clue help you decipher why this cup was designed this way? Take a guess….. 

This teacup is called a “mustache cup.” The inside lip area of the cup has a china partition, creating a half circle opening to allow tea to pass through. The British potter Harvey Adams (born 1835) is credited with designing the first mustache cup in the 1870’s. (1). Mustaches were all the fashion during the Victorian era. 

Men in Britain and the British military in the late 1800’s started growing and maintaining elaborate mustaches, often to the detriment of drinking tea. The mustaches required daily grooming wax products to be applied to tame the mustaches into various lengths and styles. The mustache products created a dilemma while drinking tea. The wax in the products would melt, and drip into the tea cup. The mustache would droop, lose the end curl or drip a wax and tea mixture onto a shirt. The mustache cup was a proven solution to the perils of drinking tea for men with mustaches. The mustache cup was widely successful. In fact, approximately fifteen years after Havery Adams created the mustache cup, he was able to retire, due to the immense success of the cup. 

Practical and Purposeful 

I appreciate the practical and purposefulness in a product. It shows creativity, problem solving and thoughtfulness from the designer. While I don’t know who designed the mug with the tea bag holder, I am grateful. I have a place to store my used tea bag, keep it warm, and keep it from dripping and leaving a tea puddle on furniture or countertops. The mustache cup appears to be a thoughtfully designed product as well. I, however, think it is a perfect cup for drinking out of and not wearing off or melting lipstick. It could also be a wonderful ice catcher if I chose to drink iced tea out of the teacup. 

These two products were created to solve two very different problems that might occur while drinking hot tea. Creative problem solving to better peoples’ tea journeys. Raise a teacup to ingenuity! 

With happy thoughts of drinking hot tea, 

Leslie 

References: 

Frost, Natasha. A Look Back At The Mustache Cups That Kept Tea Drinkers’ Whiskers Dry. Atlas Obscura, May 31, 2017.

 

About the Author

Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea.  No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!

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