Mugs are a firm favourite for enjoying a cup of tea or coffee. Their sturdy shape and comfortable handles are timeless, yet this simple design comes in many variations. Read on for advice on which types of drinking mugs you should be using.
What are mugs made of?
Most mugs and other crockery
are made from ceramic, which is designed to withstand heat and is easy to clean. “Ceramic” is an umbrella term for various kinds of ceramic materials. The material can indicate the quality of the coffee mug or teacup:
China mugs are made from vitrified kaolin clay. The material is named after the country itself, as ceramic production originates from and was mastered in China.
Many coffee cups and teacups are made from fine china. As the name suggests, this is a higher-quality ceramic, as it is created from fine particle clay. It is fired at high temperatures, around 1,200° Celsius, allowing the final product to be soft, thin and delicate, yet still durable.
This is usually more expensive than fine china, as it is more translucent and durable. It undergoes similar firing processes as standard china, but its composition includes bone ash, usually from cows. The bone gives bone china a warm colour, whereas fine china is usually a bright white.
Porcelain mugs and cups are very similar to those made from fine china. Often the terms ‘china’ and ‘porcelain’ are used interchangeably, and they share many of the same properties: both are non-porous, durable and can be made very thin without compromising on their strength. However, porcelain is usually fired at a higher temperature, around 1,455° Celsius, making it more durable than that made from fine china.
Earthenware mugs are often cheaper than other ceramic pieces. Its coarse particles give it a rough texture and heavy feel, resulting in a charming, rustic look. The downside is that it is more porous and less durable than china or stoneware.
Stoneware mugs are a stronger alternative to earthenware crockery, due to the addition of vitreous materials. The clay composition is similar to earthenware in its thickness and heaviness, suiting it to everyday use.
Melamine is a hardened plastic, primarily composed of resin. This material is dishwasher safe and more durable than classic china, making it handy for picnics. Although most melamine mugs are food safe, check the specifications of the product to see if it’s also BPA-free.
An alternative to plastic cups, eco-friendly bamboo fibre is made from natural materials. It’s similar to plastic in that it’s very lightweight, but with the additional benefits of being 100% non-toxic and biodegradable. Some travel mugs are made from bamboo fibre as it’s durable and won’t break when dropped.
Stainless steel travel mugs are among the most popular. Steel is not only hard wearing, but it also retains heat very well and does not contaminate the taste of your cup of tea or coffee as much as plastic travel mugs might do.
Which mugs are oven and microwave safe?
When making hot drinks, check the bottom of the mug or the manufacturer’s information to see if the mug is safe to use in the microwave or oven. This avoids damaging the mug, protects you from burns and ensures safety in your home.
Generally, most plain ceramic mugs can be used in the microwave or oven, and are also dishwasher safe. However, if they feature metallic details or are made from metal, the waves will be reflected and could result in damaging your microwave or a fire.
Glass or plastic mugs tend to be problematic when it comes to microwaves and ovens. Unless explicitly stated on the product, do not expose these types of mugs to extremely high temperatures. Plastic can easily melt and glass may shatter or become too hot to hold.
Which mugs are the best?
The classic white mug is your best friend at tea time. Mugs are bigger than traditional teacups and perfect for that quick coffee break at work. They’re very versatile, but they’re not the best choice for every situation. Here are a few other ideas for types of cups and mugs:
- Patterned mugs: Decorative mugs make great home accessories on a kitchen countertop or mug tree. Designer mugs often have creative patterns that are on trend and give your table setting an updated look.
- Novelty mugs: Themed designs featuring characters from Harry Potter or Disney make fun gifts for kids or family members. Put seasonal cups with Christmas motifs or autumn leaves on display for a cosy, personal touch.
- Espresso cups: For a more sophisticated coffee break, use small cappuccino and espresso cups to bring out the flavour of well-made coffee.
- Teacups: Naturally, teacups and saucers are the best choice for afternoon tea, being more decorative and delicate that mugs. The saucers are also a handy place to perch a teaspoon or biscuit.
- Soup mugs: These are handy for sipping soup in the sofa, and thermos cups can also be used to transport soup on long journeys. They are often microwave-safe for added convenience.
- Latte mugs: These tall, speciality mugs usually come in two popular designs: panelled ceramic or clear glass, for the best presentation. Glass mugs are also an elegant way to serve hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream on top.
Where can you buy mugs?
For high-quality mugs, browse the wide selection on Houzz UK. As well as cups and other crockery, there are a number of other tea and coffee products
to make your hot drink breaks more luxurious, from cafetieres and teapots to kettles and coffee machines.