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Coffee Mugs Versus Teacups: What's the Difference?

When it's time for your morning cup of coffee or tea, chances are you don't put too much thought into what mug or cup you use. You might simply reach for the closest mug or grab a design that suits your mood. However, coffee mugs and tea cups have different designs and boast different features, so you might not be selecting the right style of drinkware for your pick-me-up of choice.

Differentiating between a coffee mug and teacup can be challenging because this drinkware typically features a similar construction. Ceramic and porcelain drinkware is a staple in most kitchen cabinets, and coffee mugs and tea cups feature similar silhouettes. However, differences in size and shape will allow you to identify what mug or cup to use for what drink. So, before you next turn on the coffeemaker or teapot, take time to learn the differences between coffee mugs and teacups. Then, stock your cabinet with the right drinkware for your favorite hot beverage.

Coffee Mugs: The Basics

Your classic coffee mug typically holds 8 fluid ounces of coffee. Larger mugs can hold even more. The larger size of the coffee mug is one of its distinguishing features when you compare it to teacups.

In addition, coffee mugs usually come with a handle, but some styles, especially travel varieties, do not. Coffee mug handles provide ample room to fit all of your fingers, which is another key feature of mugs versus teacups. Finally, consider the thickness of the drinkware. A coffee mug has a thick construction that adds stability to the mug and ensures that your drink stays hotter longer. These classic mugs are ideal for your favorite drip or pod coffee that you brew at home or enjoy at a cafe.

Specialty Coffee Mugs

While traditional coffee mugs fit the above features, specialty coffee mugs have their own set of distinguishing characteristics. Espresso is traditionally served in a demitasse, or a small coffee cup. These cups feature a narrow bottom and wide rim. Their smaller size, usually around 2 to 3 fluid ounces, reduces air exposure as you sip, thus preserving its rich flavor. Plus, this smaller size ensures that the espresso stays hot down to the last sip. Espresso cups usually include a handle and can be served with a coordinating saucer.

Lattes, on the other hand, come in large mugs that resemble small bowls. These styles are typically larger than your traditional coffee cup.These mugs feature a wide rim, which gives you or your barista room to pour the steamed milk into espresso. This wide rim also offers creative baristas ample space to transform the top of your latte into a work of art. Latte mugs usually include a handle, although you can find handle-free styles as well.


The easiest way to distinguish a teacup from a classic coffee mug is by assessing the cup's size. Teacups typically hold a smaller volume than coffee mugs, usually holding about 6 fluid ounces of your favorite tea. Your teacup will be thinner than a coffee cup, thanks to a lighter weight ceramic or porcelain construction.

Another way to determine whether you're holding a teacup or a coffee mug is to check the handle. A teacup handle is smaller, fitting only three fingers. The last differentiating feature is the saucer. Saucers are coordinating pieces that come with teacups, not coffee mugs.

Choosing Your Mug or Cup

When you're stocking your cabinets with drinkware, consider whether coffee, tea or both are most frequently consumed in your home. Avid coffee drinkers might prefer having mugs, espresso cups and latte mugs on hand so that you can match your beverage with the right drinkware. If tea is more your style, enjoy a mix of smaller, lighter teacups with coordinating saucers. For a complete collection, have both coffee mugs and teacups on hand. That way, you'll always have the right drinkware to coordinate with a hot beverage, whether you're pouring a cup for yourself, sipping tea with your family or having coffee as you catch up with an old friend.