Why Chinese teacups have no handles

Dear ladies and gentlemen, some of you may wonder: why the traditional Chinese teacup has no handle while the European teacup does? Do you know where the difference comes from? Today, I will introduce you the story behind, and also some etiquette rules you should know about tea.

Chinese Anti-scalding Design
Chinese teacups are usually made of porcelain, and the shape without handles is more convenient both for production and transportation. And there are specific temperatures for brewing certain tea. In this case, a cup with no handle allows people to hold it with hands and feel the temperature by themselves. However, Chinese still have two special designs for the anti-scalding purpose.

1. Pair the cup with cover and saucer, so you don’t have to hold the body of the cup with hands directly but hold the saucer instead.

2. The bottom edges of the cup and the saucer are wider. And the edge serves as a stand to support the body of the cup and also prevents the direct physical contact.

What do the Europeans do to avoid scalding?
However in Europe, almost all sorts of cups in Europe were made of metals (silver or tin), and most of them are with handles. Because the thermal conductivity of metals is much better than any other materials, so it is impossible to use them for hot beverages. So how do they manage to drink hot tea without hurting themselves? They also had two ways:

1. In the 17th century, they imported Chinese teacups, which had no handle but with saucers. However, Europeans at that time knew nothing about the way how Chinese way of drinking. So they would hold the saucer with one hand, with the other hand to pinch the edge of the cup, take a sip very quickly and then put it back to the saucer.Even though they were scalded, they would never say it and would remain calm on their surface to stay elegant.

2. They got inspiration from their milk cup and wanted to produce their own teacups with handles to avoid the risk of scalding. And finally in the 18th century, they were able to do it after they discovered the secrets of porcelain.

Drinking habits
Chinese way of drinking is more of tasting: take the saucer with cup together, open the cover a bit but still press it against the cup; take a sip and then put it back onto the table.

European afternoon tea is usually a social event between nobles. And most Europeans are fond of sweets so that they will add sugar and milk into the hot tea. In order to cool the tea, they would pour it into the saucer, and then drink it afterwards with it. Later in the 19th century, people from high society abandoned drinking from the saucer, because they think it was vulgar and inappropriate to do so in public.

Etiquette rules for drinking tea

No matter you are in China or in Europe, there are some common rules you should follow when drinking tea:
Don’t make any noise when drinking.
And don’t drink like a fish but take small sips instead.
The spoon for European afternoon tea is for stirring the tea, not for drinking.
You cannot fill the whole cup with tea, otherwise the liquid would spill out and your guests would easily get scalded.
You could enjoy some pastries when drinking tea but never eat and drink at the same time using both hands.

Do you prefer to use the cups with handles or without handles? What else do you know about drinking tea?

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