Close your eyes for a moment and take a deep breath. Release it gently and slowly and answer me this… what is it that captures the essence of enjoying tea in solitude?
Besides quality tea leaves and the tea’s flavor, of course.
Tea lovers the world over know that drinking tea is not just for hydration. It’s about the whole tea drinking experience. So that implies we’re not drinking out of a coffee mug, then, are we?
The Tea Lover Experience
If you cherish a peaceful moment with a cup of hot tea, then you’ll appreciate the importance of the teacups and saucers we drink from. In this article we’re going to focus on choosing the perfect teacup for discerning indiviuals.
Of course, that would suggest ‘horses for courses’ – different perfect teacups for different tea drinking occasions!
We may end up with several different tea sets… but I shall endevor to focus on the task at hand.
Is Bone China The Best Teacup Material?
Does it matter what your teacup is made from? Yes, and no. Your choice of material for the best teacups and saucers is primarily personal preference. However, what you choose to use your teaware for may add to your list of requirements. More on this a little further down.
Fine bone china
Traditionalists would likely believe that fine bone china is the only way to go for quality teacups and saucers. Bone china certainly is one of the finest materials for teacups. Made from a blend of bone ash (yes, animal bone), china clay and feldspar, it is lightweight, delicate and a little translucent (depending upon the manufacture) and also quite strong with great heat retention qualities.
Probably the first material tea drinkers from the western world associated with fine tea drinking, it is a good choice. Bone china teacups will often have an incredible elegance and sophistication about them that is hard to reproduce with other materials.
Unless you are vegetarian, vegan or avoid animal products, fine bone china might be your chosen teacup material.
High quality porcelain
Porcelain is another ceramic material that is strong, durable, lower cost and so can be a great alternative to bone china. In general, porcelain is cheaper than bone china as it’s made from kaolin clay which is more readily available and less costly than china clay. The manufacturing process of porcelain is also less complex than bone china, and because bone china has a reputation of ‘higher quality’ and also associated with high-end brands, products made from the two materials will usually sit at different price points.
Having said that, teawares made from porcelain can still be elegant and have a level of translucency. If you’d prefer to be cruelty free, spend less, and less dictated to by brand marketing and market perception, then you’ll possibly love porcelain!
Pottery teacups are a whole different concept. They’ll be relatively rustic and have more of an artianal feel to them and are unlikely to be refined and elegant! Because they’re made from the likes of stoneware or earthenware, they’ll have their own unique charm.
Great for a hot drink
Clay pottery teacups can retain heat effectively enough and are a novel option if you’re wanting the earthy aesthetics. A great idea for coffee cups out camping, perhaps! In years gone by I owned a fabulosly rustic and artisnal earthenware ‘thrown’ dinner service, complete with small teacups. They were gorgeous, small and ever so cute. But I just could never bring myself to drink tea from them!
Now here’s a different idea! Borosilicate glass has high thermal resistance and transparency. So glass tea cups made with this material allow you to appreciate the color and clarity of the tea whilst you’re drinking it.
Glass teacups are versatile and naturally easy to clean. The glass doesn’t retain flavors (so you can also use them as clear glass coffee cups). However, single walled glass teacups may not retain heat as effectively as bone china or porcelain, so they might cool down faster. An alternative is a double walled glass cup – which can make the cup easier to hold without burning fingers, hold heat longer and also give the added impressive effect of the tea floating in air!
In fact, a double walled glass cup is one of my favorite receptacles to drink green tea from!
What Exactly is The Point of a Saucer?
If you look into the history of the saucer it actually leans primarily towards tradition! Teacups were not originally designed with matching saucers. We’ll cover the full story in another article. But despite not being an intentional pairing, there are times when it’s a very suitable pairing!
Cup and saucer display
If you’re looking to display teacups, they look so much better with matching saucers (and side plates)! A saucer under a hot cup that you need to hold in your hands (say, when standing talking at an afternoon tea gathering) saves singed fingers. Saucers are also invaluable for holding a teaspoon, a lemon slice or a small snack like finger sandwiches at a tea party. Not least of all, if the liquid spills over when serving tea, the saucer is simply the best way to catch it!
Anyway, the traditional teacup and saucer fit like a glove, so let’s leave it at that – for now!
What to Look For to Get The Best Tea Cups and Saucers
Material: As we’ve already covered, bone china, porcelain, stoneware, earthenware and glass are the main options to choose from. Please, never plastic.
Quality: Is this a tea cup to impress? Last forever? Look expensive? Look for signs of quality – or poor quality.
Size (capacity): Do you prefer smaller or larger cups? Perhaps a different size depending upon what type of tea you are drinking and depending upon the time of day? If we’re going to curl up on the sofa with a cat and a good book, then we’re not going to want to pop up every 10 minutes for a ‘top-up’!
Comfort: In my early 20s I struck up a special friendship with an older, Latvian lady who lived across the street. She had suffered arthritis in her hands for many years and holding small-handled teacups was something she avoided. Imagine her delight when I discovered a delicate and feminine yet large capacity and wide handled teacup for her to enjoy her cuppas from!
So, consider who will use the tea cup you’re choosing, as ‘ergonomic’ needs vary from person to person.
Something I consider incredibly important is the width of the rim or ‘lip’. A thin lip is so much more delicious to sip from than a thick rim. If I go to a cafe and they can’t offer a ‘proper’ teacup, then I have to resort to coffee, as the mugs are thick lipped and manly. Not at all delicate!
Aesthetics: Choose tea cups and saucers that suit your personal taste and style. Is it pretty? Delicate? Racy? Modern? Traditional? Minimalist? Intricate?
Does the style match?: Do you already have a teapot or other tea accessories, that the cups and saucers could be coordinated with – if not exactly matched? This isn’t critical, but if you ever happen to host a tea party or have a larger gathering to serve tea for, having elements that sit comfortably together could be a real delight.
Care: Consider the care requirements of your purchase. Will they be handwashed? Or, are dishwasher-safe? My husband dutifully and patiently hand washes my vintage and antique trios (cup, saucer and side plate sets) when I host a tea party gathering for my friends. But, he’d really rather not!
Budget: Is the sky the limit? Or, would you like to feed your children this week! It’s always a toss-up, isn’t it? It may even be worth waiting to see whether the best teacup of your dreams comes on sale sometime… Paying a reasonable price is always a good idea.
Reviews: Online customer reviews have to be the best invention since online shopping! Feedback from those who have already bought the product you’re considering can provide invaluable insights to help inform your decision.
Best Tea Cups: Reviews
Let us get on to the tea cups themselves! You’re sure to agree that there are many varieties of “best” when it comes to tea cups. For our purposes here, we’ve investigated the best tea cup for gardening, for the office and Zoom calls, for cosy moments on the sofa and then the best for gift giving and spoiling oneself!
Best for Cosy Moments on the Sofa
This is the time to take a mindful moment for health. Whether you crave a few moments alone, or with your best furbaby, your children or other beloved family, drinking tea curled up in your favorite spot is good for the soul. I read a quote just today that spoke about recognizing our ‘glimmers’ – which are the opposite of our ‘triggers’. Glimmers of hope, love, joy and gratitude! So these moments need a correspondingly beautiful tea cup to go with them.
And this is the time for beautiful teacups and saucers!
These gorgeous Pulchritudie brand bone china teacup and saucer sets have a decal pattern (i.e. not hand painted) and gold rim. The capacity is 8 Ounce (or about 240ml).
New but nice
The brand has only been around since 2018, but the reviews of these sets from customers are astoundingly high – almost 5 stars! Designed in California, USA, the tea cups set is manufactured in China, as many of these more western style cups are these days!
Only potential downside? You may need the matching teapot to keep topped up with tea!
Prefer the tea mug size? It fits almost two teacups worth of tea! So you can stay cosy longer 🙂
Best for Zoom Calls
I’m serious! Don’t you find it just as interesting to see what types of cups or mugs or glasses people are drinking from on those Zoom calls – just as interesting as it is to see what their house looks like? Or, is that just me…?
The “Amanda Jane” tea mug
I watched a lot of coaching and training video sessions over the past few years and the teacup used by one particular presenter stood out to me. I thought it was so very pretty. Tea mug, rather. Not a tea cup and saucer set, just a mug. So, I went on the search for the same kind of mug, thinking I could most likely find it online – and, I did! Here it is – my favorite online lady presenter at the time had this set of mugs for drinking her tea from! I call it the Amanda Jane Tea Mug.
This stunningly beautiful tea cup features a smooth inside surface, but a scalloped external surface. It’s really pretty. The handles are lovely and large – suitable for the strongest of fingers, or those that don’t bend and grasp quite like they used to – but still totally suitable for the smallest and daintiest of hands.
Not microwave safe
Do note – despite what the product listing says about them being microwave safe – they are not! There is a fine gold trim around the rim. And we all know what that sounds like in the microwave. I’m sure nobody here puts their tea in the microwave, however!
Best for Gardening
Did you know there is such a thing as a tea cup for gardening? I love nothing more than to take my hot cup of tea and wander around my garden. Chances are I’ll become distracted, pop my cup down to pull up a weed, or fetch the hose to water something and – oops – before you know it, the cup is in grave danger of being knocked over – by the hose, or the dog, or a cat who has followed me out of the house!
So, the best cups to take outdoors for gardening or other odd jobs are probably more modern cups – ones that perhaps are not your best teacups and not from a matching set that you want to keep complete! A saucer would likely be more of a liability than a benefit outdoors, so this is one occasion where a more ‘mug style’ tea cup is going to work well.
I’m particularly taken by this attractive and clever looking cup:
What a brilliant idea to use a cup with a lid for taking out gardening (or to the workshop). No leaves (or sawdust) or other foreign objects falling in the tea! It’ll keep your tea extremely hot and give you some time before your delicious drink cools off too much!
The Maxjoy Ceramic Tea Cup has an infuser and lid and features a really nice wooden handle for steeping loose leaf tea. The capacity is 15.2 Ounce (or about 400ml) and stands almost 12 inches high! You’ll get a lot of gardening done before needing to go back indoors for a top up!
Best Tea Cup Set for a Gift
If you have an idea to gift a tea cup or a tea cup set, then you’re likely already aware that your recipient is a tea lover and will appreciate the gesture.
The first question to ask is: are they collecting a particular design? Would it then be best to gift a teacup and saucer to complement their set? Or, could this be the start of something new? A whole new adventure for them!
If they are someone very special and appreciate antiquities, you may be looking for a vintage or antique piece – something hand painted, even. But do be aware this could be a liability, requiring washing separately with only warm soapy water and drying with a soft cloth. They’re certainly not going to be dishwasher safe, so do be sure your recipient has that appreciation!
We don’t want to add to anyone’s work load because we’re all so very busy these days. So, you might consider a choice of modern cups – one with a stainless steel tea strainer, perhaps. It will make life easier and the tea delicious!
Best Teacup for Spoiling Yourself
If I were going to spoil myself (and, after reviewing this particular brand of tableware, I just might) quality teacups from Portmeirion would absolutely be my choice. I have longed for these for years since finding a lovely mug in a charity shop in their Botanical Garden design. Quintisentially British, the Botanical Garden design is “hailed as the world’s most popular casual tableware design.”
If you love everything British and love nature, prettiness and just a touch of earthiness, then Portmerion Botanical Garden is for you.
Why do I think this is the best teacup for spoiling oneself? There’s not even a matching saucer! Therein lies the secret (wink).
Afternoon tea – every day
This classic Portmeirion design is for everyday living. Yes – it’s dishwasher safe and microwave safe! No saucer to juggle. Save that fuss for the tea party! Simply a classic, elegant, beautiful and high quality porcelain teacup to enjoy when you want to spoil yourself.
Something that is particularly lovable about the Portmeirion Botanical Garden design is just how collectible it is…
If you prefer an entire tea set, it’s possible to collect this design over time and add them to your china cabinet as you go! What would look more gorgeous?
There is also a beautiful sugar bowl and cream pitcher (or creamer, as they would call it in Britain) if you wished to add that to your starter collection.
Not only tea set items
Not directly related, but I can’t take my eyes of this 3 piece jam jar set. Perhaps it is time for afternoon tea with jam on toast!
And That, Tea Lovers, is Only The Beginning!
Next time I shall bring you a selection of the best ‘other types’ of tea cups for other purposes! Who knew there were so many?