Teacups and Teacup Etiquette

Teacups Teaware Tea Cup and Saucer

Written by Layla Wyatt

If teatime is beginning to become a part of your household routine, maybe it’s time to start investing in a top-quality tea cup and saucer set. Tea lovers will agree that the teaware you’re using affects the overall experience.

Tea Cups Affect Tea Quality

Teacup and Saucer
When you reach for tea, do you ever think of the tea cup and saucer? If you’re an avid tea drinker, you probably pause and deliberate on the tea set’s appearance, shape, and feel.

“Customarily, tea is consumed slowly and thoughtfully. It’s supposed to last until the end of your tea-time conversation. Therefore, a cup and saucer set create an emotional connection between you and tea time.”, explains Shane Perry, tea-lover and senior consultant at Max Funding. Perry is particular with how beverages are served to guests at their offices, pointing out that everyone should feel relaxed when making important decisions.

For a more pleasant and memorable teatime, here the factors to consider when choosing a tea set for adults:

  • Material
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Type of tea you’ll consume using it
  • Where the tea will be consumed

There are enough choices out there to stun you—especially when you realise that the teacup’s quality directly affects the quality of your tea. Like wine, some people can tell the differences—one of them can be your guest.


The scent of the beverage strongly affects its taste. The material, depth, and width of your teacup determine if the aroma will be directed to your nose or not. The 24ct gold-trimmed Tielka teacup is slightly taller and narrower than an ordinary teacup, ensuring that the scent is focused in your direction.

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Porosity and Thickness

If the teacup is porous, the aroma and flavour will sink into instead of being released. There are different types of cups, including glass, clay, stainless, disposables, and porcelain (bone china).

The reaction between the cup and the tea is similar to wine kept in an oak barrel. If the elements are correct, the tea flavour is improved. It may bring out delicious notes or soften the beverage.

Take note that not all materials react well with tea, particularly polystyrene foam cups! Cups made of plastic, foam, or coated paper are highly-absorbent, and you don’t want to lose the orchid-like aroma of Midnight Blossom Oolong Tea.

Bone china is the most preferred material for an English tea set. Bone china tea cups are smooth and non-porous, which means they do not absorb and hold flavour residues. Additionally, they have low-heat transference, allowing you to enjoy a warm tea without burning your fingers holding the cup.

If you want to experience bone china's quality and luxurious appeal but concerned about ethical practices, there are 100% bone-free fine china tea sets out there, like this one.

Rim Thickness

The recommended rim thickness for drinking is less than 1 mm. This is to maximise exposure to your taste buds. A thinner rim also allows smooth delivery of liquid to your mouth.

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Shape and Size

Small and narrow tea cups are best

Teacup size varies from one culture to another. Some people are not fussy about the container and would drink tea from a large coffee mug. But for a total immersion into the tea culture, it’s recommended to use appropriate cups only.

Taller and narrower teacups do not only preserve the aroma. This design also ensures a more controlled consumption in case you slurp it before it’s cool enough.


Bone china tea sets still don’t have handles for easier production and logistics. Of course, there’s also a cultural element in that.

Going back to ancient times, teacups didn’t have a handle. It was only around the 1700s when these were added for various reasons:

  • To protect the delicate hands of ladies when drinking tea
  • To provide a suitable container for black tea, which is brewed at higher temperatures. Drinking directly from a saucer stopped being stylish at a certain point, so the Europeans decided to add a handle on the teacup.
  • Cup size increased as tea became more affordable, and a handle helped hold larger cups.
  • To differentiate tea, coffee, and cocoa cups—forcing people to purchase different cups.

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How to Properly Use an English Tea Set

Should you stick out your pinkie?

How to correctly hold a teacup

You might have seen some people drinking tea with their pinkie sticking out. Doing so is greatly discouraged because it connotes elitism---which is impolite. This stems from the idea that the cultured population eats using three fingers only while commoners have to use all five. Therefore, the erroneous belief that one should raise a pinkie finger to display their privileged background was born.

Holding a teacup

Hold your tea cup with one or two fingers put through the handle, while providing balance with your thumb on the top of the handle. Curl the other fingers beneath the handle.

Leave the saucer on the table

When you’re sitting, the saucer stays on the table. The only time you should lift it is when you’re standing or walking around. Hold the saucer with the left hand and the cup with the right.

Using teaspoons

If you’re using a teaspoon, don’t stir the tea in circular motions and never clink the cup. Put the teaspoon at the 6 o’clock position and gently sweep the liquid towards the 12 o’clock position a few times. Stir up and down.
You can also place the teaspoon on another plate. Never drink your tea if the spoon is still in the cup.

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Serving tea

Milk is a better partner than cream. This is because the cream is too heavy, which can affect your tea's taste and texture. It’s advised to pour milk into your tea instead of pouring milk into the china cup first. This way, you can control the amount of milk.

Serve lemon in slices instead of wedges. Provide a lemon fork for your guests or elegantly add a slice after pouring the tea into the cup. Never add lemon to tea that has been mixed with milk because it will cause curdling.

Drinking tea

Sip your tea slowly. Don’t slurp or use it to help you swallow food.


Tea sets are a critical part of the tea time tradition! The Tielka Teacup and Saucer is made of 100% cruelty-free fine china with 24ct gold trimming. With a beautifully-designed branded packaging, it can be a fabulous gift or addition to your collection. Its 240ml capacity is perfect for Tielka’s pyramid teabags! Check out Tielka Teaware here.

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