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Column: What’s mugs got to do with it? Coffee, tea vessels vary in size and shape but prove collectible

by Christy Busby Worsham, contributing columnist | February 6, 2023 at 4:03 a.m.

While visiting a family member recently, I absentmindedly placed a coffee cup under the Keurig and pressed its 10-ounce button.

An overflow ensued followed by embarrassment, laughter, a cleanup and profuse apologies to my hostess.

We were engrossed in conversation and I hadn't noticed the vessel's smaller capacity. I should have realzed the coffee cup's smaller profile would could not hold 10 ounces.

I own a few of the daintier coffee cups and matching saucers. But, they've long since been relegated to the far reaches of my cupboard in favor of the oversized, sturdier coffee mugs.

On the drive home, I began thinking about just how many coffee mugs I own; far more than any human should. My husband doesn't drink coffee and doesn't care for hot tea. He occasionally drinks milk from the mugs in our home. I can count about six to eight mugs we have in rotation. I purchased them on trips or they've been gifts. All have unique shapes and/or sentiments

And, most of our mugs are not full with 12 ounces of coffee or tea.

Yes, I'm a coffee mug collector/curator. I've enjoyed shopping for them, preparing and enjoying the special brew, watching the steam rise from the filled mugs and feeling the warmth radiating to my hands as I cradle the mug's ceramic walls. It's like holding a warm, soothing escape in liquid form.

Though I have too many mugs, it doesn't stop me from sauntering through the kitchenware aisles in gift shops and department stores. Sometimes, I can resist the urge to purchase yet another mug. However, you can only use one mug at a time, unless you live or work with fellow coffee and/or tea enthusiasts.

My fascination with mugs began in childhood. The house I grew up in was older and the kitchen cabinet shelves were spacious in between levels. Hence, our coffee cups and mugs hung by their handles from hooks screwed underneath the middle shelf. That particular, old school detail filled me with joy and visual appreciation. Coffee was a staple beverage for my parents, and I loved to hang, and see, those mugs on the hooks.

Mug trees, stands or holders were also quite popular in that era. I loved the mug colors, though. At that time it was the advocado green, mustard yellow, brown and bright orange colors that prevailed. Yes, the 70s ruled. If memory serves correctly, some cleaning supply companies even threw in (literally) a coffee mug or glass as a free gift with boxed, powdered detergent.

In my time, I've also owned a few heat-activated mugs. These show one design when the mug is empty or contains a cold beverage. If filled with a hot beverage, the design changes. My first mug like this was a freebie from a magazine company showing Pangea, which separated into the continents when it contained a beverage.

My most recent heat activated mug was acquired at Christmas: a dark mug with stars emblazoned upon it. Pour in a hot beverage, and the stars form constellations.

The late, longtime Texarkana, Arkansas, Mayor Bobby Ferguson, always famous for his little gadgets, gifts and gags, had a mug made for me in the early 1990s. It had a photo transfer of him straddling a motorcycle and on the other side, a cryptic handwritten message, "Job security, always on your mind." This is a one-of-a kind mug. It's not in rotation.

One mug in heavy rotation has a light garnet color with the words "coffee" and "cocoa" written upon it in varying shades of brown. I sometimes drink tea from it, and feel a little rebellious when doing so. It's a dollar store mug and I've likely had it 10 to 12 years.

From the no frills, neutral colors to the over the top color combinations and sometimes sarcastic sentiments, mugs allow us to express our personalities and beliefs. They are always functional and hold the fuel many of us need to power the day. Coffee and tea are customs in many workplaces and homes.

Finding the right mug, or mugs, for the coffee and/or tea rituals should fill us with contentment. However, be cautious and do not allow your mug to overflow, no matter where you go.


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