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The coffee of yesteryear

Buffalo china cups, Victor mugs

Those enormous coffee mugs and gigantic paper coffee cups are symbols of the rat race. Once upon a time, it was understood that a cup of coffee was something to relax with and savor. The drinking vessels reflected that.

There is a science, of course, behind the new style and the old style of coffee drinking.

The science of the new style is simple: Get all the coffee you’re going to drink into a single vessel, and chug it fast while on the run. Still, it’s guaranteed that the first third of it will be too hot, and the last third will be too cold.

The science of the old style was much more complex and sophisticated. It required skill and attention from whoever was serving the coffee. The drinking vessels were made of heavy china. The cups absorbed heat from the first pouring of coffee, cooling it to a more drinkable temperature. Thereafter, there was the ritual of “warming up” the coffee, which required pouring more coffee at just the right time, before the cup was empty. This not only refilled the cup, it also brought the coffee back to the ideal temperature. This ritual was repeated until you’d had enough coffee. This is how the English serve — or at least used to serve — tea from a teapot.

To my lights, the ideal coffee mug was the mug made by the Victor Mug Company. This mug holds about 8 ounces when filled to the brim, or about 7 ounces when filled to a drinkable level. The ideal coffee cup was made by the Buffalo Pottery Company. These cups hold about 7 ounces when filled to the brim, and about 6 ounces when filled to a drinkable level. These mugs and cups were sold as restaurant china. They’re now collectable.

When looking for cups in the housewares section of a couple of chain stores, I was not terribly surprised to find that they don’t even carry cups and saucers anymore, and all the mugs are huge. eBay is the answer.

I really feel for the people who have to drink their coffee from huge vessels, on the run. Now that I’m retired, I drink coffee (well, a coffee substitute) the old-fashioned way. I used my large set of Victor mugs during my working years. But now I’ve slowed down to cups and saucers.

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