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On glasses, cups and the 'teacup hold'

by Marlies Smits

No, I'm sorry, this isn't an invitation to coffee or tea. Rather I would like to tell you about my observations of using these items. Certainly you're already familiar: You sit together at a table and somebody offers to order another round of coffee or other drinks. A friendly thought and a polite gesture. But what happens next?

Top me off, please

If the trusty pot of coffee is being used, there are already some uncertainties. Pass the cup along? If yes, with or without the saucer? Hold it yourself or pass it off? Questions upon questions, but here are the answers:

If a drink is being poured, be it wine or water, coffee or tea, the glass or cup should remain sitting on the table. You remember this from restaurants for when the server pours a glass of wine you don't hold the glass up to them.

In a somewhat more relaxed circle, it is sometimes easier for the 'cup bearer' to be handed the cup. But do it quietly. It is best to hand the glass to the pourer and take it back once it is full. It's all quite simple with a glass or a cup. But how does it work with a cup of coffee or tea? In this context, the saucer and the cup are one entity. So you will never just hand off the cup, but the saucer along with it if somebody is to pour you something. This reduces the sound of dishes clanking immensely and also looks far more refined.

During meetings or conferences, you will look rather strange with the 'I-hold-my-cup-high strategy', but of course nobody will tell you as much.

Glass or bottle?

Many years ago most of us were bottle-fed. This should have changed over the years, however. It is still considered improper to drink from a bottle in public. Regardless, we all know that we need a certain amount of fluids for our health. This is why our water bottles accompany us most places. This is entirely acceptable in parks and other areas, and you can refrain from using a glass in private, such as at a barbecue. At a meeting, a seminar or in the restaurant, though, a glass is by and large the best option.

Holding handles and the teacups

Holding a cup with steaming, hot tea with both hands, cuddling snugly into the corner of the sofa and sipping away happily - amazing! Yet in public I prefer to hold my cup by the handle and without wrapping my fingers around the cup.

Furthermore, extending your pinky - the teacup hold - is not exactly genteel, but has a different background. Take a look at what I found out about this topic online.

While in many a dark robber baron's den during meals one could be found snorting and spitting, using the serviette for one's nose, wiping their knife on the tablecloth and relieving themselves on the floor if food disagreed with them, the lord of the castle valued etiquette. The table was coated with white linens, the serviettes could only be used to dab away roast, broth and wine. Steaming water was passed around in bowls for the hands, and the women would extend their pinkies, which had been commonly used to clean their rear, away from their cups so as not to contaminate them and to demonstrate their new sense of cleanliness.

(Excerpt fromThe Capuchin Monk of the Middle Ages)

 Even without knowing this text, many people consider it affected to let one's pinky stick out from the rest.

In closing, a little tip on holding glasses. If your glass has a stem, that is just the right spot for your fingers. Otherwise you hold it by the bottom third. This keeps the liquid portion free from fingerprints and the drink maintains the proper temperature.

Also: When drinking cognac, do not wrap your fingers around the glass; the resulting warmth evaporates the alcohol undesirably quickly.

This is where my brief reflection on drinking utensils ends. At home I am more of the 'cup grasper' type, but that's where I'm allowed to be.

Marlies Smits

Marlies Smits








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