Vintage Greene  ·  An Arduous Undertaking

Mug Matters

If you’re a tea or coffee drinker, having the right mug is very important. We drink tea and coffee for pleasure, and for functional purposes like making us feel slightly less asleep after a late night solving relativistic field equations or whatever it is we happen to do. However, drinking tea and coffee is also a ritual, and if there’s one thing you need for a good ritual, it’s paraphernalia.

For example, I have two mugs, one for coffee, one for tea. There are various aspects to their importance, besides that imbued simply by being my mugs: the functional, the decorative, the semantic. Let’s start with the first of these.

A good mug needs to be sturdy, so as to survive the occasional mishap, such as having something dropped onto it by a clumsy or thoughtless housemate. It also needs to be the right size and shape, to feel right in your hand, to have a handle robust enough for you not to feel like it’s going to snap at any moment. These are all quite personal things: hands and appetites differ markedly from person to person, so what’s right for one person often isn’t right for another.

Visual appeal is also a must. That mug’s going to be sitting there on your desk or coffee table for—if you’re anything like me—a reasonably significant portion of the day. Even after you finish drinking your tea or coffee, chances are you won’t go and wash it up immediately. Make sure you have a mug you like looking at. My family have a number of mugs from the Ashmolean Museum’s shop, which sells a beautiful set of Kafuh designs including this bamboo one and this crane (they look better “in the flesh”, with classical proportions and a delicate glaze).

Having a design that’s meaningful in some way, at least to you, is a nice bonus. My tea mug is a solid piece of white china from Traidcraft, with a wonderful, bright African design of two lions roaring at one another. It says, “Beware of Noisy Lions.” They don’t sell anything nearly as good anymore, so remember, if you see a mug you like, buy it! Good mugs are few and far between these days, so any opportunity to get something that really appeals is not to be wasted. Good hunting!

7 responses

I want a relicnews mug.

We could probably get them from CafePress.

I notice you have a seperate mug for tea and coffee. Can you expand on why…….a good washing in between uses should suffice. Or is this a method to expand on your mug colletion?

Because with two mugs, I only have to do the washing-up once. Easier to wash two mugs at once than one mug two times.

My favourite mug is from The Rutles tour merchandise, embossed with the legend ‘Legalise Tea’, meaningful because it was handed to me by Neil Innes in person. I must also add that the word ‘mug’ has always been a favourite of mine, for it succinctly captures the uncomplicated value and warmth of the item.

Oh, I completely agree - it’s all in the mug! I needed a good mug for the office, and not just any mug, I wanted a mug that aesthetically reflected some place that I have been. So I purchased one from the gift shop located in the tiny airport of Flint, Michigan, my hometown. The mug contains an image of a 1950-something Buick with the word “Flint” beneath the car in a classic yet bold font type. The best part of this mug and what it truly represents as the paradox of U.S. automobile makers, especially for Flint Michigan, the birthplace of Buick and also known as Buick City, is found in the three words that appear on its bottom - “Made in China.”

Us tea and coffee drinkers like the right mug! I sure do.

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