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La curiosa storia della tazzina di caffè

The curious story of the coffee cup

Even if the classic espresso coffee is often served also in a glass cup , the porcelain coffee cup seems preferable since this material conserves heat better and helps to bring out the flavor of the drink more, as we already highlighted in an article some time ago.

But which is the real original coffee cup and how long have we been using it?

Today we want to tell you this story and discover if the perfect cup for savoring a classic espresso really exists and what its features are. 

The coffee cup in history 

The word “tazza” (Italian for “cup”) seems to have originated from the Arabic word “tassah”, a glass in which drinks were served, and the spread of this term throughout Europe dates back to the time of the Crusades.

According to historical sources, already between the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century, the dinner services in majolica included cups, low vessels, with the mouth wider than the base, which could also sometimes have a lid. Some were used for containing candies, others for serving food and drinks.

All the differences between the various types are not totally clear, but it would appear that most of these containers did not have a handle.

These cups were often decorated and the motifs became increasingly elegant and refined as ceramic art gradually developed.

When coffee arrived in Europe, during the XVII century, it was initially served in cups without handles, even if there were also cups which had a kind of handle which made them easier to pick up. 

Only later, around the 18th century, someone thought to equip these cups with a saucer, which not only served as a rest for the cup, but was used to cool the coffee before drinking it: the drink was actually poured into the saucer and drunk directly from there.

Seem like a strange habit? Perhaps. But in the 18th century it was considered perfectly normal!  

The creation of the espresso coffee cup and its name 

Drinking coffee from the saucer soon became considered something contrary to good manners, so much so as to be deemed offensive. In the meantime, the manufacture of ceramics was making big strides and, around the mid-eighteenth century, the Brit Josiah Wedgwood founded his factory, perfecting creamware, an English version of  majolica.

It was precisely thanks to this resilient material which was easy to work and decorate, that Wedgwood also “invented” the coffee cup.

Its Italian name “tazzina” (little cup) is not just the diminutive of “tazza” (cup) but is actually taken from the name of an Italian, the painter of the Accademia di Brera Luigi Tazzini, artistic director from 1896 to 1923 of the Richard-Ginori  Tuscan Ceramics Society.

Tazzini adored the then emerging movement of Art Nouveau and oriented his production in this direction; the design of the modern coffee cup is all down to him and the definitive addition of the handle.

Tazzini developed many different types of this cup, for different purposes: el tazzinin for drinking coffee, el tazzin on the other hand was designed for drinking wine, the tazzinetta for latte, the tazzina for eating pasta with beans.

Does the perfect coffee cup exist? 

Working on materials and designs for food and drink products means bringing to life ideas that necessarily have to combine beauty and functionality.

In the case of espresso coffee, for example, the cup is not only a design object, but it also has the job of not letting the drink cool too quickly.

First of all, a professional coffee cup must be made of hard feldspathic porcelain, which is baked at a temperature of around 2552°F.

This material is extremely resilient to wear and tear, it is hygienic and keeps its shiny new look for a long time.

What’s more, it is capable of conducting and holding heat to keep the coffee at the right  temperature.

So what are the other features of the perfect coffee cup? 

The shape and color 

The shape of the cup must, above all, bring out the flavor and look of the coffee: it must be of a truncated cone shape, rounded inside and with an ‘egg-shaped’ bottom to prevent the foam from losing its consistency.

Plus, the diameter of the top of the cup should not be too wide.   

The inside of the cup must be white, so as to create a strong color contrast which helps to enhance the coffee and bring out its tones.  

The handle and the edge 

The handle of the cup should be designed in such a way that it is easy to hold, with two fingers.

The middle finger should not touch the cup itself, which is very hot.  

The edge of the cup, besides not having any annoying and potentially dangerous chips out of it or other signs of wear and tear, should be just the right thickness at the point where the lips touch the cup. 

The ideal thickness and capacity  

In the cup, the coffee should stay hot, but initially its temperature should drop: this is why the bottom of the cup should be thick and the upper part should be thinner, a detail that makes contact with the lips even more pleasant.  

The ideal espresso coffee cup  should have a capacity of around 70 cc, the best size for serving an espresso of 20-25 cc. 

The temperature

When the coffee comes out of the espresso machine, the cup should be at a temperature of around 104°F: in this way the organoleptic properties of the coffee will remain unaltered for longer and also the cream of fine bubbles on top of the drink will keep its color. 

Did you know the history of the coffee cup and the features that make it so precious? 

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