The "Cup that Cheers" - Matching the right cup to the right tea
- June 23 2021
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During marriages, company farewells and anniversaries, one of the most common items to be selected as a suitable present is a set of beautiful teacups. As we all love tea, a set of teacups seems the most appropriate and ‘safest’ gift to select for anyone. Consequently, over a number of years, our houses are stacked with so many different types of teacups - big and small, plain or artistically designed, fragile or sturdy.
However, when it comes to using these, it is sometimes not clear which set should be used for a particular category of tea. People often go for ‘extrinsic’ qualities such as the appearance of the cup, its design, size, and value and miss out on some ‘intrinsic' features to meticulously select the right cup for each tea. Consequently, some tea sets never get used and gather dust.
Let’s understand the various types of teacups.
Ceramic refers to the baked clay pottery made in kilns that includes stoneware, porcelain and terracotta. Ceramic cups are ideal for hot tea as they are resistant to high temperatures & retain heat much more than other materials. Further, the thicker the material of the cup, the greater will be the heat-retaining capacity. It is for this reason that ceramic cups are used globally for tea drinking purposes.
Porcelain, originally a speciality from China, and sometimes called China, is a type of ceramic also made in a kiln at very high temperatures but uses a more superior variety of clay. It is considered more durable than normal ceramic & as the cup has been “smoothened”, it retains heat more than normal ceramic and prevents tea chemicals from sticking to its surface. Due to their high strength, porcelain cups can be made thinner and appear more delicate looking than ceramic cups. This makes them suitable for serving in elegant tea sessions with special guests.
This is like Porcelain but has a portion of bone ash mixed with it to give a product that is even more durable than Porcelain. Interestingly, Bone China was not made in China but first made in Stoke on Trent in the UK in the 1700s. This place is also known as ‘The Potteries’. Bone China is the most durable of all ceramics and is generally opaque in appearance. This high strength allows cups to be made very thin and hence appear even more delicate and sophisticated with a smooth finish.
Some tea cultures use glass for consumers to see the degree of strength of the brew as well as admire the colour. However, as pouring very hot tea in a glass cup may cause a “thermal shock” causing it to break, care must be taken to use tempered glass that can withstand high temperatures. As glass is difficult to hold when hot tea is poured into it, Russians have introduced a device called ‘podstakannik’ (the thing under the glass), which is a metal handle attached to it for convenience to the drinker. A double-walled glass cup is another type that not only keeps the tea hot for a longer period but also ensures that your hands stay comfortably warm regardless of the high temperature of the tea.
Although Stainless steel cups are the most durable, the metal transfers heat to the lip much faster than a porcelain cup, making it slightly inconvenient to sip & drink from. Double-walled steel teacups may help in keeping the tea hotter and easier to hold. So, with this information, how can one choose the right cup?
As this tea is very light and not drunk at high temperature, an elegant glass teacup is the best choice. The very light colour visible through the glass gives off a very delicate attribute that suits the tea. Further, the moderately warm temperature of the tea will ensure that the glass is not too hot to hold.
Some of the Teas from Taj Mahal Tea House that will look delightful in these cups are Darjeeling White Tea & Silver Needle and berries.
A glass teacup is an excellent choice for this tea too. One can admire the light-yellow colour through the glass and as the tea is consumed moderately warm, a glass teacup provides comfort for the drinker to hold. We can also use thin-lipped white porcelain teacups that have a wide mouth which provides a good view of the colour of the tea and also enable the tea to cool quickly for consumers to drink at a warm temperature.
Some of the hot brew teas from Taj Mahal Tea House that can be enjoyed in these cups are Darjeeling Green Tea, Oriental Jasmine Rose, Misty Oolong (Semi Green), Kashmiri Kahwa Delight. On the other hand, cold teas such as Citrusy Lemongrass iced tea, Mountain apple lemonade, Matcha Spearmint Iced Tea will stand out superlatively in glass cups preferably.
Darjeeling Black Tea
The ‘Champagne of Teas’ requires an appropriate cup to showcase this amazing drink. An elegant glass cup with a handle can be used to display the wonderful orange or burgundy colour of this tea. Glass also is non-porous, so the lovely aroma will not be absorbed by the cup and can be inhaled by the drinker directly.
Small artistic cups with thin lips of white bone china or porcelain are also an excellent choice as these two materials preserve the aromatic aromas of the tea. The white colour of the cup enhances the overall hue and sparkle of the tea and the thin lip of the cup ensures that the tea flows smoothly through the drinker’s lips. Further, a small cup will lead the drinker to take small sips slowly so that he/she can savour the aroma and taste more comprehensively. Some connoisseurs like to admire the bone china credentials and design of the cups while they savour the tea. In fact, there is an excellent market for vintage bone china teacups!
Teas from Taj Mahal Tea House that can be served wonderfully in these cups are Darjeeling First Flush, Darjeeling 2nd Flush, Autumnal Wonder, Snow Mist, Smoky Mountain, Darjeeling Rum Raisin & Pink Guava and Kaffir.
Assam Orthodox Tea
While opting for a hot Assam Orthodox tea without milk, a double-walled glass tumbler is an elegant choice where one can marvel at the attractive dark reddish colour. The glass being non-porous enables one to smell any aroma of the tea while sipping.
Teas from Taj Mahal Tea House that are admirably suited for these cups are Flaming Hue, Hyderabad Suleiman Tea & Spiced Tea Toddy Style.
Assam CTC Tea
These teas can be had in a variety of cups to suit the occasion. While ceramic cups are an automatic choice, some differentiation can be created by having tea in a double-walled glass cup or one that has been tempered so that it can hold the hot tea. As Assam CTC tea mixes very well with milk to give off a golden-brown hue, a glass teacup can showcase this beautiful colour admirably. If the glass is tall, it can retain the tea aroma for longer periods compared to a wider cup.
Although stainless steel cups are widely available due to durability, they need to be used with a bit of caution as hot tea is difficult to sip in these. If they are scratched, stainless steel cups can leech certain chemicals into the tea. So one needs to be careful with these.
Exquisite teas with rich spices such as saffron should be enjoyed in Porcelain and bone china cups. The light colour of these cups goes well with the dark golden brown and bright hue of the milky tea. Connoisseurs can also admire the artistic engravings and Royal markings on the Bone China cups while they sip their tea.
The Taj Mahal Tea House customers can savour the versatile Kashmiri Saffron, Parsi Mint, Bold Spices Tea, Karipatta Delight. Gulkhand Pan Chai, Kaffir Lime & Jaipur Royal Chai in any of the above-mentioned cups.
As some of these may contain attractive flowers and shoots, Infusions are best served in Glass cups for the customer to also admire the colourful hues. Customers can enjoy the visual beauty and taste of our Rooibos Infusion, Orange & Rooibos & Butterfly Blue Pea Toddy in these cups.
So, by having sound knowledge of teacups, one can create some interesting differentiation in the serving of their tea. Who knows, having tea in a different cup, may just help one bring about a change in perspective and pave a better way of seeing things!
Here’s to the cup that cheers! Order from a range of teas to try from the Taj Mahal Tea House in Bandra.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and are not necessarily backed by a legal evidence in nature.