Many people use the words teacup and coffee mug or cup interchangeably. However, there are big differences between the two cups.

If you’re planning to get new dishes, it’s a good idea to take a look at the two vessels and decide which suits your needs better.

Teacup vs Coffee Mug: What Are The Differences?

Teacup vs Coffee Mug: What Are The Differences?

Size

One of the most noticeable differences between a teacup and a coffee mug is the size of the cup. Teacups are generally small and dainty. They are designed to hold a small amount of liquid.

The exact amount a teacup can hold varies depending on the cup itself, but most teacups hold about 150 milliliters of liquid. This is equal to just over half a standard U.S. cup. Some teacups do hold up to 1 cup of liquid.

Coffee mugs, on the other hand, are bigger and hold more liquid. Most coffee mugs hold between 8 and 12 ounces, which is 1 to 1.5 cups.

Shape

Coffee mugs and teacups are also shaped differently. Teacups are short, and they have a narrow base that gradually widens.

The rim of the cup is often double the width of the base, and the sides can be fluted. This shape helps the liquid inside cool quickly so that you can drink it immediately.

Teacups are shaped to have an elegant, delicate appearance.

Coffee mugs are designed to hold in the warmth of a liquid. Since they hold more liquid, it’s important that the liquid stays hot for a longer time.

Coffee mugs are generally the same width at the top as they are at the bottom, and some mugs even have a flared base and narrow top that holds in heat.

Coffee mugs are also much thicker and have straight sides. This all helps to retain heat. It also means that most coffee mugs don’t have the delicate appearance of teacups.

The shape and size of the handles on the two vessels are also different. Teacups are smaller, so their handles are much smaller.

Teacup handles are designed to be held with only one or two fingers. Keeping the hands mostly away from the cup ensures that the liquid cools even faster.

This tiny handle also dictates that the teacup must be made of lightweight materials.

Coffee mugs have much larger, thicker handles. Most people hold a coffee mug with three or four fingers.

Coffee mug handles are actually designed in a way that allows you to put four fingers through the handle and cup your hand around the mug.

This increases insulation and helps the liquid stay warm for longer.

teacup and coffee mug

Material

Both teacups and coffee mugs are usually made of ceramics. The types of ceramic, however, are quite different. Coffee mugs are usually made of thicker, sturdier ceramics.

Teacups are generally made of porcelain, china, or bone china. China is not nearly as sturdy as the thick ceramics used to make mugs, so it must be treated with care.

It should also usually be hand washed, instead of being placed in the dishwasher, and it’s best not to pour boiling water directly into china or porcelain.

Appearance

In keeping with the delicate, elegant appearance they’re known for, teacups usually have a simple pattern. Most teacups are white with fine decorations.

These decorations are often floral, but you might also see a repeating geometric pattern or even a painting of a pastoral scene.

Coffee mugs can have any decorations on them. Some mugs are a solid color, others have paintings on them, and some have sayings or decorations that celebrate movies, books, or places.

Coffee mugs are often sold in gift shops to commemorate trips to certain museums or regions.

Teacups almost never have any words on them, except on the underneath where they’re marked with the designer or maker.

floral pattern on teacup and saucer

Sets vs. Single Pieces

How coffee mugs and teacups are usually purchased is also different. Mugs are usually purchased by themselves, and although you can buy several to make a matching set, they’re not usually sold in sets.

People who collect mugs often have a dozen or more mugs that don’t match at all but might have different decorations, phrases, or designs.

Teacups are usually sold in a set, most often a set of four. Teacups also come with matching saucers.

Saucers are another difference between coffee mugs and teacups. Mugs are rarely used with a saucer. People using a teacup, on the other hand, can use the saucer for several purposes.

It can simply be placed under the teacups, as it looks nicer and can protect table or counter surfaces from the heat of the cup.

You can also rest your spoon or a tea bag on the saucer instead of placing it directly on the table or a napkin.

If the beverage is too hot, it’s polite to spoon a small amount into the saucer, let it cool, and then tip it back into the drink.

If you want to keep the drink hot, you can turn the saucer over and cover the drink with it to trap warmth.

coffee mug with writing on a wooden table

Beverages

As their names suggest, coffee mugs and teacups are designed to hold different beverages. The wider rim and faster cooling properties of a teacup lend themselves well to tea.

Tea can quickly turn bitter, so it’s often better to drink it faster.

Mugs, on the other hand, are more often used for coffee. However, either vessel can be used interchangeably. You can also use a coffee mug for hot cocoa.

Teacups vs Coffee mugs: summary

Teacups:

  • Smaller and hold less liquid
  • Short, elegant shape
  • Smaller handles
  • Made of lighter ceramics like porcelain, china, bone china
  • Handwashing is recommended
  • Can have floral patterns
  • Sold in sets
  • Used with a saucer
  • Used to hold tea

Coffee mugs:

  • Larger and hold more liquid
  • Taller and thicker ceramic
  • Larger handles
  • Safe for dishwasher use
  • Normally have a single color with letters or writing
  • Sold individually
  • Used to hold coffee, tea, hot cocoa

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