In the world of tea drinking, to the un-initiated, it is all-too easy to get lost. Not only is there what is known as a tea etiquette, rooted in centuries of history, but there are countless other unwritten rules as well. And that’s not to mention the fact that drinking tea from a certain type of cup can influence the way that it tastes.  

That’s right, the type of cup you drink from actually makes a difference! So, what is the difference between a tea cup and a coffee cup? And why are tea cups thing? Does tea really taste better in a thin cup? And what is the point of a tea saucer? 

Stick around and we’ll tell you everything you need to know. 

What is the difference between a tea cup and a coffee cup?

What is the difference between a tea cup and a coffee cup? Well, the most obvious and notable difference is the fact that both cups are named after the beverage they’re designed to be used for drinking! However, there are a number of differences between the two and with good reason. 

  • Shape: Bear in mind that not all tea cups are the same shape, just as not all coffee cups are the same shape either. There are many different shapes for both types of cup, but typically, tea cups are designed in such a way that their shape allows the beverage to cool quickly. Coffee cups on the other hand, are shaped to retain heat and allow the user to cup their hands around the beverage and stay warm. 
  • Size: The same applies to size as above, tea cups and coffee cups come in a wide variety of different sizes. For example, in China, tea cups are designed to hold no more than 30mL of liquid. A typical English tea cup on the other hand, would hold circa 150mL. As for coffee cups, it can vary depending on the style of beverage being served (e.g., a small cup for an espresso shot, and a broad cup for a large cappuccino. 
  • Handle design: Not all tea cups come with handles. Those that do however, are designed to be held delicately. A coffee cup handle however are typically prominent in their design. 
  • Thickness: Tea cups are thin both to cool down quickly and allow mindful sipping of the beverage. Coffee cups are thicker to retain heat, allow the user to cup their hands around the beverage, and drink for longer. 

For a closer look at the various shapes and sizes of tea cups, why not check out Yvonne Ellen’s teaware collection in Australia for some inspiration? 

Why are tea cups thin?

So, why are tea cups thin? Well, there are a couple of different reasons for this. For one thing, one of the best materials for tea cups in porcelain of china. These are naturally rather light and delicate materials, so it makes sense for them to be thin. A cup made of ceramic on the other hand, would typically be thicker. 

In any case, most tea drinkers prefer thin cups because it allows the tea to flow from the cup differently, and more fully. In other words, it encourages mindful sipping, as opposed to a thicker material which allows a faster and larger intake. 

For those who want a large cup of tea and plan to gulp it down relatively quickly (i.e., a builder onsite working to a tight schedule), a tea mug would be more preferable. However, for those who want to enjoy a nice afternoon spot of tea with friends and a gossip, then a thin tea cup is the way to go! 

Does tea taste better in a thin cup?

Does tea taste better in a thin cup? Arguably yes. In fact, many critics and experts believe that tea tastes better in a thin cup and they have some science to back it up! 

First of all, if the inside of a tea cup is porous, the flavours and aroma of the tea will be absorbed into the material, thus diluting the overall experience and sensation of drinking tea. However, if the material is smooth, then the tea maintains its body and the flavours and aroma of the tea escape the cup, thus making your tea taste better. 

Of course, having a porous material cast into a thin tea cup will make it significantly more likely to break. A thin ceramic for example, will not only be difficult to manufacture, but will be brittle. With china and porcelain on the other hand, these materials are perfect for thin cups and that, coupled with the fact that they have a smooth interior surface significantly improves the tea drinking experience. 

Then again, it all comes down to preference. Going back to the builder onsite, taking a short tea-break – we can all agree that they would be less worried about having the “best possible” tea drinking experience, and instead would prefer to drink it down as quickly as possible, get their tea fix and then get back to work. 

What is the point of a tea saucer?

What is the point of a tea saucer? It’s quite simple really. A saucer is ideal for both protecting surfaces from any possible damage caused by the heat coming from the cup, and for catching any overflow that may spill from the cup itself. 

In essence, it serves the very same purpose as a coaster would for drinking glasses on a coffee table, only it looks snazzier! 

That being said, not all tea cups come with saucers either, just as some tea cups come without handles. If you’d like to explore a variety of different teaware options, checkout Cristina Re’s teaware collection in Australia


To summarize, there are some substantial differences between a tea cup and a coffee cup, so be mindful when purchasing a new tea set. And if you are looking for the ultimate tea drinking experience, then a smooth and thin material is ideal for retaining the most flavour! If you are interested in exploring the world of tea drinking further and would like to experience a proper afternoon or high tea drinking occasion, then head over to Brookfield House.