If you collect old china, you may have noticed how deep some of the saucers are. Have you ever wondered why?
When I was a teenager, I visited a friend’s foster parents. They lived in a beautiful enormous house. I perched on a white watered silk covered sofa over an oriental rug and they handed around cups of tea. My tea was too hot, and they both told me to “use the saucer.”
Use the saucer? They demonstrated by pouring the tea from the cup into the saucer, then back into the cup. There was absolutely no way I was going to be able to accomplish this feat, so they did it for me and the tea was instantly the exact right temperature.
Every time I visited them, they cooled their coffee or tea by pouring it into the saucer, then back into the cup. Once the weather improved and we were seated in the yard, I started cooling my own tea with the saucer.
This morning it popped into my mind and I looked it up to see if it is a thing or just their thing. I have never seen anyone else do it.
It’s a thing. And that is why the saucers were so deep. They didn’t just pour the tea into the saucer to cool it. They drank tea from the saucer. Tea was made with boiling water, so to drink it right away, they drank from the saucer. The saucers were deep to make it easier.
Early saucers were so deep, they are often sold as bowls now.
It wasn’t low class. It wasn’t strange. It was a normal way to drink tea.
These are just a couple of the paintings I found of people holding saucers they quite likely are drinking tea from.
Many of the traditional china sets still include deep saucers.
If you find old tea cups and saucers, you often find very deep saucers.
These blog posts have more information and illustration of drinking tea or coffee from the saucer.