The cups we drink from can make a huge difference in the feel of what we are consuming. Like the weight of cutlery, the sounds and lighting in our surroundings are proven to change how we perceive food and drink. If you are into the science of it, there’s a super interesting book here.
20 years ago, the focus of the coffee cup, was all about the internal shape for espresso-based drinks. The idea about a rounded inner was all about maintaining crema. This seems like nonsense in 2021 where crema is as important as wearing a thick gold chain when you are brewing (note, dad-joke alert, no one does this either anymore or did ever as far as I know? ). I don’t think any coffee cup needs to be bigger than 9oz in the world anywhere for any brew method.
Part of cup evolution is that shape doesn’t matter, really. Handles don’t matter. I have seen so many cups with bad handles, all designed so that a ham-fisted rugby player can slip their digit through to hold it up. Why? They are ugly and who puts their finger through a coffee cup handle anyway? This is starting to feel like a rant, sorry. I will try and alter the tone a little here.
Small coffee cups are usually more thought out. In the early 2010s, there was a study that suggested that cup colour made us feel differently about the contents. In particular, sky-blue and canary yellow were supposed to be happy colours that made us perceive that there was more sweetness in the cup. About 100 years ago, I went to a cookery school (Tante Marie after an apprenticeship in a small rural kitchen in Wiltshire) and one of the first rules we learned about colour and food was that blue was a no-go in (French) cuisine.
I think that the resurgence of handmade cups is not opportunism. Possibly it is because baked clay is an ancient material that pre-dates all of us and is amongst the first materials that we, as a species drank out of after shells and reeds. The big following question is why we still drink out of it and like to think it is because there is nothing closer to nature that doesn’t alter the flavour or texture of the drink.
What are you drinking your coffee (and tea) out of?