What You Drink Tea Out Of Changes The Taste — Here’s How

Does the cup really matter when it comes to tea? Following the dissipation of tea as a formal activity among high society, many of the original structures and guidelines have gone out of the window. Tea-drinking, at one point as fussy as the wine world, is now universally consumed, available to the prince and the pauper for the same price.

But a consequence of those rituals being abandoned is we now live in a world of mediocre tea — albeit unknowingly. Below is a rundown of just how tea is affected by cup choice, cup colour and whether bone china really is that important. 

Does the cup change how tea tastes?

The taste of your cup of tea depends on the material, the size, shape and weight, even the thickness of the rim. Your cup should ideally be wider at the top, with an even angle to the bottom so that the tea can cool properly, lessening your chances of burning your tongue. 

Taller cups may not cool as correctly but they will offer you a greater aroma, and half the fun of tea is in the smell. Even making sure that you buy a cup with the right sized handle will positively affect the taste of your beloved brew.

Does tea taste better in bone china?

Tea does taste better in bone china and for a very simple reason: bone china has an incredibly smooth surface. The smoother the surface in a cup, the fewer natural tannins will stick to the cup itself, meaning that all the flavour stays in the tea, where it should be. On a side note, it also makes the cup easier to clean. 

Cups that aren’t made of bone china are generally bumpier and prone to attract truant tannins. This tea won’t be undrinkable as a result but if you want to get the most of your brew, you might want to invest in some fancy china. 

Another factor you’ve definitely never thought about is the thinness of the cup. Bone china has a reputation for being delicate to a fault. Why not just make them thicker and more durable? Well, because that too would ruin the taste. 

A thin rim on a thin cup means the tea will reach your mouth quicker. Flavour is retained on the shortness of this journey. With cheaper cups and thick rims, the journey is a little longer. Though it may not seem much, having to overcome the obstacle of a thick rim again and again does in fact impede your tea’s tasty potential. 

Does tea taste better in glass?

Though bone china is a fine choice for your brew, nothing has less impact on whatever hot drink it comes in contact with than glass. Not only is it non-porous and smooth, but it looks pretty too! This is the only option where you’ll be able to see your whole tea in all its glory. 

If you’re wanting to impress a tea connoisseur, having tea in a glass will showcase the distinction of colour better than any other cup or mug. What’s more, glasses serve as perfect heat retainers and will keep your brew warm without the help of a tea cosy. Again, make sure to invest sensibly. Don’t presume you can pour any hot drinks into a wine glass, for example. 

Why does tea taste bad in Styrofoam?

The negative experiences people have when drinking tea from a Styrofoam cup is more of a psychological block than anything to do with the material. While it certainly isn’t as complimentary to the tea’s flavour as bone china or ceramics, there’s nothing that drastically impacts the taste other than your own sensory expectations being compromised.

Hot chocolate has been shown to taste better in an orange cup. Crisps seem crunchier when we’re exposed to higher frequency sounds as we eat. Strawberry mousse tastes sweeter on a white plate than a black one. And tea from a Styrofoam cup makes us feel like we’re being poisoned.

Does the colour of a cup change the taste of tea?

Weirdly enough, the colour of a cup does affect the taste of tea. Drinking out of a red or pink cup will give the tea a sweeter taste as those are the colours we associate with sweetness. Drinking tea out of a white or black cup will make the tea seem saltier as those are the colours we associate with saltiness. 

This is was explained the Inside the Factory TV series where tea expert Dr Stuart Farrimond broke down the component parts of the perfect brew. Before shocking viewers with the psychology of colours, he quickly quashed the age-old question of “How long should you leave a tea to brew?” In Farrimond’s eyes, five minutes will ensure the tea is fully caffeinated. 

The paper, published in the Journal of Sensory Studies, that revealed how drinking hot chocolate tastes better in orange cups, supports Farrimond’s suggestions. 

One scientist behind the paper wrote: “An anecdotal example of this can be the favourite mug from which so many of us prefer to drink our tea or coffee. Perhaps that drink, which is always prepared in more or less the same manner, does not really taste better from our preferred mug, but the mug itself simply improves our overall multisensory experience.”

Josh Teal

Josh Teal is a freelance writer with wit and verve, powered by copious amounts of tea and coffee. That makes him something of an expert in all things brewing, whether it's for you or for your pets!

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