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Posts Tagged ‘drinkware’

The reasons for using Italian ceramic coffee mugs for your favorite hot drinks go far beyond aesthetics. The ceramic keeps things warm for longer, especially if you pre-heat the mug by running a little warm water in it first. Even better, ceramic doesn’t conduct heat like metal or glass, keeping your drink warm while still allowing you to hold your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate comfortably.

Italian coffee mug

But with so many great Italian coffee mugs out there, there’s no reason to limit their use to just drinks alone. Italian ceramic coffee mugsHere are four ways to enjoy your mugs without coffee inside:

1. Go green. Italian coffee mugs can quickly transform into a fantastic mini planter. Add some rocks or gravel to the bottom for drainage, then soil and a small plant such as a succulent or fern. This can be a useful way to use a chipped or cracked Italian ceramic coffee mug that you love.

2. Get organized. Can’t ever find a pen? Use an Italian coffee mug to hold various writing utensils anywhere in the house, from study to family room.

Italian ceramic coffee mug

3. Serve creatively. Contemporary cups and saucers can also be a useful way to serve your next meal. Italian coffee mugs are great for starting off your next dinner with a small portion of soup. Mix and match different Italian ceramic coffee mugs to give the table some unexpected color. This works particularly well with cream or blended soups; everyone can just drink them, no spoon required.

Fiore Mug with soupItalian ceramic coffee mugs

4. Savor sweets. Sometimes you just need a little ice cream in your life, but not a whole bowl. Feel less guilty by serving yourself a scoop in an Italian coffee mug. By filling a smaller container, you’ll feel like you’re actually eating more since the mug looks full (it’s an old trick for those trying to eat less; the same works for eating off of smaller plates). For true decadence, make an affogato. One scoop of vanilla ice cream in an Italian coffee mug plus one shot of espresso equals a delicious treat that leaves you feeling like you’re in Italy.

What else do you put in Italian coffee mugs or contemporary cups and saucers? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Affogato image courtesy of Ewan-M.

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It’s early in the morning and you’re not quite awake yet. You open the cabinet door to get a mug for your morning cup of coffee or tea only to be confronted with an array of choices, none of which you really want. It can feel like a Goldilocks moment: this one’s too big, that mug’s too small. Then you spot the mug that is just right. It’s the right size, shape, color, and thickness. Sound familiar?

I’m always surprised at the mugs, cups, and glasses people will hold onto even though they never get used. A friend of mine recently mentioned she’d gone on a cleaning/simplifying mission in her kitchen. She took about half of the mugs and cups in the cabinet (the ones that usually stayed in the back) out, boxed them, and put them on a high shelf in a storage closet. The result? She’s now able to display all her favorite Italian coffee mugs on a shelf, adding color to her kitchen and complimenting her other Italian ceramics on display. There’s also less clutter in her cabinet. She’s thinking about holding onto the extra mugs and cups for a while in case she needs them for entertaining, but told me she also might just donate these extras and get more of the Italian hand painted mugs that she likes (and uses) instead.

Given that mugs are a popular choice for gift giving and we are well into the holiday shopping season, I’ve been thinking about what makes the perfect mug. Here are four factors to consider when choosing the right coffee cup for coffee or mug for tea:

  1. Thickness: A thicker coffee cup will keep things (like your coffee) hot longer and be generally sturdier. Thin mugs and cups are more likely to crack (think about your Grandmother’s china cups).
  2. Size: Know something about your gift recipient’s coffee or tea drinking habits. Do they favor espresso or an extra large serving of coffee with plenty of cream? “Standard” mug size might be the perfect fit, or maybe a bigger mug is in order. Having a variety of sizes can also be useful when it comes to entertaining or accommodating different family members’ beverage preferences.
  3. Handle: This allows you to carry mugs and cups and not get burned. Look for solid handles that are big enough to slip a few fingers in, letting the drinker savor the warm beverage inside. Small, thin handles are likely to break off or slip out of hands.
  4. Design: Mugs are a place where it’s easy to mix and match stylishly. I love the array of designs in my personal collection of Italian coffee mugs – most of them have the same size and shape, so my only decision is which Italian hand painted mug I feel like using that morning. These Italian ceramics make great kitchen decorations with their mix of organic motifs. Others prefer solid colored mugs or cups, and then there are always the fun designs like these polka dot mugs.

Need some mug gift ideas for yourself and others? Check out these mugs and cups to get you started.

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Are you a coffee addict? Or perhaps a tea fanatic? No matter how you like your caffeine fix, having the right mug makes all the difference. Handle design, thickness, and size are factors that make the difference between an Italian coffee mug you use everyday and one that just sits on the shelf.

Why does origin matter for contemporary cups and saucers? Well, think about your favorite beverages. Coffee grown in Latin America usually has lighter, citrus flavors while African beans are full of berry notes and earthy depth. Tea harvesting methods and varieties also vary from India to China, with different tastes depending on if the leaf is part of the first picking or last of the season. Because handmade ceramics use local clay, you’ll also find some differences in mugs from places like Mexico, Italy, and France in terms of color and firing methods used. The biggest obvious difference is in the traditional patterns that decorate French, Mexican, and Italian coffee mugs though. From lemons and fruits to roosters and flowers to playful polka dot mugs, there are as many designs as there are ways to make a cup of coffee!

The case for using ceramic mugs dates back hundreds of years. Ceramic keeps beverages hot for longer than most other materials, making it the ideal material for Italian coffee mugs right from the start of the coffeehouse vogue that started in the 17th century. Even today ceramic cones are used in serious coffee shops (and by home aficionados) all over the U.S. as a way to make a consistently delicious cup. Using a scale to get the correct proportion of grounds to water might be a little over the top, but I’ll admit that the results are delicious.

Both mugs and contemporary cups and saucers have their own advantages. A mug lends itself to moving around the house or office while a cup and saucer is better suited for staying put (and holding your spoon and a cookie or other small snack). I love the massive size of the Gran Taza mug in the afternoon (fewer need to go back for refills), but always start my morning with an Italian coffee mug for my first cup. For a few minutes I feel like I’m back in an Italian café in the heart of Tuscany.

What are your favorite ways to drink coffee and tea? Are you a fan of Italian ceramic coffee mugs, French espresso cups, or other contemporary cups and saucers? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Did Bastille Day make you long for France? It did for me! I keep thinking about my favorite French experiences and near the top of that list is whiling away the morning or afternoon at a sweet Provençal café. From croissants to French coffee bowls, here are my top tips for creating your own French café experience, no matter where you are or what time of day it is.

  1. Pick the cup to suit your drink. Whether you love strong espresso or equal parts coffee and cream, the right vessel makes all the difference. Tiny espresso cups allow the ideal amount of crema to cover the shot for the best taste possible. Like American style coffee? Then treat yourself to a polka dot mug for your brew. And for you hot chocolate and tea lovers, there’s nothing better than French coffee bowls for capacity.
  2. Try using a saucer. At a café in France, every beverage is served on a saucer that holds a tiny spoon, perhaps a lump of sugar, and a small sweet. French coffee mugs with saucers do the same at home, giving you an easy way to transport your cup to your favorite chair or seat on the patio. The saucer also provides protection for your table and won’t go missing the same way a coaster always seems to.
  3. Eat fresh. In France people usually pick up croissants or pain au chocolat from the local boulangerie or pâtisserie when they are only a few hours old. This makes for flakier pastry that tastes even better with a coffee at the local café or breakfast table. While you might not have a bakery right down the street, pair the contents of your French coffee bowl with the freshest breakfast possible, from fruit that’s in season to treats you picked up from the bakery the night before (shhhh, we won’t tell anyone).
  4. Pick up a newspaper. When traveling in Provence, I always see people reading their favorite newspapers at cafés, particularly in the mornings. It’s an easy way to slow down and truly savor what’s in your French coffee mug, whether it’s your first or fifth cup of the day.
  5. Don’t neglect the details. From interesting sugar cubes to those tiny spoons, the right details make your French coffee mug feel even more authentic. Recreate a French breakfast with Nutella or jam spread on toast or a croissant; then dip it into your French coffee bowl and enjoy the delicious results. Whether it’s a playful polka dot mug, gently steamed milk, or a cheerful cream and sugar set on the table, these little details will make any cup of espresso, coffee, or tea seem like someone else made it for you.

Interested in more coffee rituals? Check out our Pinterest board for coffee and tea lovers and let us know what you think.

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What’s your hot beverage of choice? Coffee with cream and sugar? A potent espresso? Antioxidant-rich green tea? Hot chocolate with whipped cream? There are as many variations on these warming drinks as there are people who drink them. Talk with a barista and you’ll find out about even more factors that make a drink great: foam density, temperature, even the size of the espresso cups all contribute to the resulting taste.

There are a few coffeshops in San Francisco who will only serve small espresso drinks (like a macchiato or a simple shot) in ceramic cups, never to go. When I asked a barista why this was, she told me that the oils that give espresso its full flavor get absorbed by the paper of “to go” cups, making the drink taste flatter. Another factor is temperature –  a cooled espresso is a pale imitation of its warm delicious glory.

How should you serve your favorite handcrafted beverages? Here are some tips to get the most flavor out of your favorite cup, no matter what it may be:

Warm your mug first. No matter what you’re drinking, run some hot water in your French coffee bowl or polka dot mug and pour it out first. Bringing the ceramic to a closer temperature with the beverage means that your drink will stay warmer longer. You often see baristas doing this with espresso cups right before pulling the shot.

Use loose leaf tea. The flavor difference is incredible between tea bags and loose leaf because of how they’re created. Tea bags use the leavings and broken bits, while loose leaf varieties maintain more of the leaf and thus flavor. If you hate the mess of loose leaf, use filter bags or a tea ball to create your own tea bag.

Assam Melody

Get fresh beans. Roasting date makes all the difference as after about two weeks coffee starts to go stale. Grinding your own beans can be inconvenient, but getting fresh beans ground at your favorite coffeeshop is infinitely superior to buying pre-ground coffee.

Add some decadent finishing touches. A French coffee bowl is a great way to enjoy hot chocolate, but it’s even better if you add some fresh whipped cream or a drizzle of dark chocolate just before serving. Coffee purists might not like mixing their brew with flavors, but fresh cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut, or other favorite flavors can jazz up your routine.

Serve in style. Stylish French coffee mugs, like these polka dot mugs by Richard Esteban, make any drink more enjoyable. Whether espresso cups, French coffee bowls, or a giant mug like the Gran Taza, having the right cup makes all the difference.

Tea leaves image courtesy of A Girl with Tea.

Coffee beans image courtesy of kadluba.

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After my recent buying trip to France, I’ve been craving café crème and chocolat chaud like never before. Coffee culture is such a mainstay of French life; it’s easy to lose count of the espresso drinks you’ve consumed during the day. Even the tiniest town will have a café that makes incredible coffee, stuff that you’d only find at a high-quality place in the USA. Perhaps the tradition of an aperitif before dinner is to counteract all the caffeine of the day. On second thought, most people have another coffee after dinner as well… Never mind!

You don’t see French coffee bowls much in cafés or restaurants; mostly they’re used in the home. Every family member has a preferred bowl for their breakfast ritual, whether it’s filled with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or even chocolate milk for the kids. They are the perfect pairing to a traditional tartine (toast with butter and/or jam) or my favorite, a croissant. The French love coffee bowls because you can easily dip your breakfast into your drink. If you’ve never tried this, I definitely recommend the experience.

Something else I love about French coffee bowls is that you have to use both hands to drink out of them, unlike a handled mug. On chilly mornings this is a perfect way to really experience a morning drink with all your senses. Because the bowls are so wide, it is difficult to see or do anything else while drinking. It’s a moment of Zen, encouraging you to slow down for complete enjoyment.

Of course, French coffee bowls are for more than just coffee. But there’s something elegant, yet comfortable, about being able to dip with ease into your beverage of choice, whether at breakfast or having afternoon tea with cookies and scones. French coffee bowls are also perfect for soup sipping, a bowl of yogurt with fresh fruit, ice cream sundaes, or even just cereal. As I transition back to life in San Francisco, I know that I’ll be using them to bring a bit of Provence to my kitchen and my day.

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Contemporary, unexpected, modern, colorful – this is what I think of when it comes to buying Mexican pottery. Surprised? The garish stereotypical wares made to sell as souvenirs don’t stir my inner collector. But when it comes to Mexican imports there’s a huge array of exceptional, interesting pieces that I find myself drooling over when visiting artists in their workshops. So what do you need to start buying Mexican pottery yourself?

In terms of design, there are so many more choices than just the rustic or raw, unfinished look. Just look at the range within Talavera ceramics! Two-toned zigzags and stripes create a sleek, modern feel; bold colors and playful motifs add a bit of charm. Feeling more simplistic or just not into patterns? Solid color pieces accent any collection, from plates to planters.

Sometimes my customers are overwhelmed by the vibrant quality of Mexican import pottery. Remember: a little can go a long way. So why not start with a special platter or a few mugs to see how pieces can lift both your mood and the ambiance of your home?

Besides looking at how to choose the best handmade ceramics, be careful when buying pieces you intend to use for food. Verify that they have met FDA standards and are lead free. Even if a ceramic piece is dishwasher or microwave safe, try to use lower heat settings to prolong their life. They’re not just dishes, they’re also artwork.

Ready to start exploring what Mexican pottery you should buy? Here’s a non-exhaustive checklist to get you inspired:

Tibor: The Mexican word for ginger jar or urn shape (above right) is a classic Mexican import. Great for indoor and outdoor decoration, the tibor combines modern design with authentic Mexican charm and comes in various sizes. We liked them so much that we made them into lamps (above left), giving the tibor a more practical touch.

Vases: Don’t stop with the tibor, other vase shapes, from a large statement piece to a small touch of color, add instant artistic appeal to your home.

Candle holders & Tablewares: Both practical and decorative, these add flare to any table setting. Salt and pepper shakers never looked so good, especially by the soft glow of candlelight.
Dishes: For platters and plates, the various shapes and types of Mexican pottery make them ideal for serving and enjoying everything from tapas to main courses.

Drinkware: When you discover a handmade Mexican mug or cup and saucer that is beautifully crafted and lovingly painted, your coffee or tea really does taste better.

Bowls: Again, the range here goes from little bowls perfect for a tasty dessert to a huge salad bowl fit for a fiesta. I like to fill my soup bowls with pazole, but what’s your favorite?

Planters: Inside or out, give your plants a stylish home that keeps them moist and protected. Whether that means a pot on the patio or a single flower in the kitchen, you’ll smile every time you look at your plants.

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