The Proper Use Cup and Saucer

You are likely familiar with the traditional set of cups and saucers. The cup and saucer have a long history and proper etiquette for use. While you may enjoy your morning coffee or tea in a casual mug, there are occasions calling for a more formal approach. Understanding the purpose and tradition behind the cups and saucer set provides helpful insight into proper usage.

Examining when and how to appropriately drink from the cup or saucer lends nuance to this time-honored table setting. Reviewing guidelines for serving coffee versus tea in cups and saucers imparts useful knowledge for hosting and attending formal events. Continue reading to learn more about correctly leveraging the cups and saucers based on context and contents.

The History and Purpose of the Cup and Saucer

The custom of drinking tea, coffee, or chocolate from a cup and saucer dates back to the 17th century in Europe. The saucer was initially used as a dish for cooling the hot beverage before sipping and catching any drips or spills from the cup.

Over time, the saucer evolved into an essential part of proper table manners and etiquette. It became standard to gently pour the beverage from cup to saucer to cool before drinking. Holding the saucer in one hand and the cup in the other also helped prevent spilling or burning one’s fingers from the hot cup. Pinkies up became associated with balancing the cup on the saucer.

In aristocratic society, it was considered refined and polite to drink only from the cup, not the saucer. Slurping from the saucer was seen as impolite. Today, while cooling hot drinks in saucers is less common, the cups and saucer remain a classic pairing for serving tea, coffee, and other hot beverages at home, in restaurants, and on special occasions.

The saucer still serves as a stable base for the cup, catching drips and spills. It completes the esthetic look of a proper place setting. However, drinking directly from the saucer is generally no longer considered proper etiquette. One should lift the cup from the saucer and sip politely from it.

The enduring tradition of cups and saucers exemplifies the manners and civility of enjoying a proper hot drink. While practices have evolved, the cups and saucer set remain a sophisticated tableware choice.

Drinking Etiquette: Should You Drink From the Saucer?

The proper etiquette when serving tea or coffee in a cup and saucer is to drink directly from the cup, not the saucer. Here are some guidelines on the proper use of the cups and saucer:

The saucer aims to catch drips and hold the cup, not for drinking. Drinking tea or coffee directly from the saucer is considered poor etiquette. When stirring tea or coffee, be sure to place the spoon back on the saucer, not in the cup.

When finishing your beverage, place the cup back on the saucer. Do not leave it sitting on the table. If the cups and saucer become separated, reunite them promptly after taking a sip from the cup. The saucer can be used to gently cool piping hot tea or coffee before sipping. Gently blow across the liquid’s surface or wave the saucer back and forth to help dissipate heat.

If absolutely necessary, a small sip from the saucer is permissible to avoid spilling if the cup is overfilled. But drinking the entire beverage from the saucer is improper. An exception is made for espresso. It is customary when drinking espresso to use the saucer to capture a sip, then drink from the saucer.

Proper etiquette allows one to confidently enjoy tea or coffee served in a cup and saucer. Relax and savor the aroma and flavors without worrying about spills or breaches of decorum.

How to Properly Drink Tea From a Cup and Saucer

The proper way to drink tea from a cup and saucer is an etiquette practice that demonstrates manners and decorum. Follow these steps for proper form:

Hold the saucer in your non-dominant hand and the cup in your dominant hand. The cup handle should be positioned at 3 o’clock if you are right-handed or 9 o’clock if left-handed. This makes it easy to raise the cup to your mouth. Lift the cup by pinching the handle between your thumb and index finger. Keep your pinky finger curled against the cup; extending it is overly formal.

Quietly sip the tea from the rim of the cup. Do not slurp or gulp. When not sipping, return the cup to the saucer. This prevents spills and excessive cooling. Never drink directly from the saucer. It is there solely to catch drips from the cup. When finished, return the cup to the saucer and return it to the table. Be sure to use a napkin to dab your lips delicately after drinking.

With proper posture, graceful movement, and quiet sips, drinking tea from a cup and saucer exhibits poise and decorum. Follow the steps above to demonstrate etiquette and good breeding in formal settings. Practicing at home will ensure you are comfortable performing proper technique.

Coffee Cups vs Tea Cups: Do You Need a Saucer?

The cup and saucer set has a long tradition in Western tableware. While they may seem outdated, they still have relevance today. Understanding the purpose and proper use of the cups and saucers will allow you to decide if they are right for your beverage service.

Coffee cups typically have larger diameters and hold more liquid than traditional tea cups. The wide mouth accommodates sipping the hot beverage and allows the aroma to develop. Coffee cups often have handles for grip.

Teacups have smaller diameters of around 3-4 inches. This allows the beverage to cool to an ideal drinking temperature. The smaller size also lets subtle aromas develop. A matching saucer gives a resting place for the hot cup.

Saucers serve both functional and decorative purposes. They prevent spills, protect tables from heat damage, and showcase decorative patterns. However, the saucer is less crucial with coffee mugs since the handle provides a grip. When drinking from teacups and saucers, lift the cup by pinching the handle between the thumb and index finger.

Take a small sip and return the cup to the saucer. Never raise your pinky, as that could be seen as pretentious. For coffee, grasping the mug handle and drinking directly without a saucer is fine. But you may prefer to elevate your table setting with a saucer under a coffee cup.

The choice comes from personal preference, beverage type, and desired presentation. Saucers lend an elegant touch to a tea service. But for casual coffee drinking, mugs may be more convenient. Consider your individual needs when deciding on cups and saucers.

Choosing the Perfect Cup and Saucer Set for Your Home

When selecting cup and saucer sets for your home, consider key factors to find the ideal pieces. Opt for high-quality porcelain or bone china sets that will withstand daily use without chipping or cracking. Seek out styles and patterns that align with your own tastes and decor. For instance, those preferring a traditional look may select elegant floral motifs, while modern minimalists may opt for solid colors or simple geometric shapes.

Evaluate the dimensions of the cups and saucer. A cup with a larger bowl capacity of around 8-10 oz is ideal for enjoying coffee or tea. Ensure the saucer diameter is at least 2 inches wider than the cup base. This prevents spills and lets you gently return the cup to the saucer after sipping.

It is also wise to choose sets where the cup handles and saucer rims match in color. Contrasting handles stand out in a visually unappealing way. Subtle complementary colors for the interior and exterior glaze will give your set a polished, upscale appearance.

While most utilize the saucer solely for holding the teacup, saucers can also serve other functions. One may place a teaspoon or biscuit on the saucer alongside the cup. When enjoying hot tea, the saucer can be used as a surface to briefly cool the liquid before sipping. However, drinking directly from the saucer is traditionally considered improper etiquette.

With numerous styles to select from, thoughtfully choosing the ideal cups and saucer sets from Teasetbox will provide you with an elegant tea service to use for years to come. Allow your personal taste, daily needs, and sense of style to guide you toward pieces that feel uniquely yours.


Finally, the cups and saucers serve an important purpose together in proper tea and coffee service. While the saucer should not be used to drink from, it does allow a resting place for the cup to avoid spills and stains. The cup and saucer have evolved but still hold an important place in formal settings.

Understanding the etiquette around their use demonstrates respect for tradition and knowledge of proper manners. With care and intention, the cups and saucer ritual can make any tea or coffee break feel more refined.


1. Should I drink from both the cup and the saucer?

No, traditionally, you should drink from the cup while the saucer is used for resting the cup or catching drips.

2. What is the purpose of using a saucer with a cup?

The saucer serves multiple purposes, including catching drips from the cup, providing a stable base for the cup, and sometimes holding small snacks or teabags.

3. Is it considered polite to sip directly from the saucer?

No, it is not considered proper etiquette to sip directly from the saucer in formal settings. The saucer is meant to support the cup.

4. How should I hold the cup and saucer while drinking?

Hold the cup with your fingers through the handle and support the saucer with your other hand. Avoid holding the cup and saucer together as one unit.

5. Is there a specific way to place the cup back on the saucer after drinking?

Yes, after sipping from the cup, place it back onto the saucer gently and ensure it rests securely without any spills.

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