A MARVELOUS MUG
During a recent chat with Matt, a graduate of our Accredited Barista Course, he began extolling the virtues of the green ceramic cups we use at Black Market. I agree, I think they’re great, and I now see I haven’t given them the time or appreciation they deserve. I will remedy that immediately.
Coffee mugs are central to our coffee experience. They are the crux of the coffee’s journey from estate to sip, the final vessel to bear, to cradle, to embrace our beloved before it reaches our lips. It is the last thing we touch, the final tangible connection between delayed gratification and satisfaction.
I would say most of us feel this connection deeply, albeit not in as many flowery, esoteric words. But we know. We have a favourite mug, or favourites depending on mood and occasion. They’re based on texture: earthy unglazed ceramic or a smooth patina coating, catching the edges of the heat transferred logo as it slowly peels away. How it feels to hold, if it curves into our palm, if it carries a genteel amount of weight as to feel the worth of its undertaking.* Does it remind us of a time we travelled to that small art village in Bosnia, or went to the trade show for solar power panel and lithium battery accessories? Is it precious? One of Nan’s Wedgewood gold trimmed originals, or is it the chipped and dented aluminium lid of your thermos that’s lived in the back of your Hilux for years? Though perhaps its ability to stand strong against multiple scaffolding drops and dishwasher cycles makes it more valuable than a Qin Shi Huang terracotta soldier. Perhaps.
The mug I’m using right this very moment is fine. It’s okay. It’s a Jamie Oliver trademarked mug that says ‘FRUITY & FRESH: just like my tea.” It doesn’t make sense to me. Sure you can have fruity tea, but tea is a dried product with a very long shelf life and shipped from far away places. Tasty, but not fresh. Anyway, it does the job it was intended for, but no more.
A thoughtfully designed mug, crafted by a gifted ceramicist who truly understands the purpose of the vessel, is a thing of magnificence. There’s a multitude of pragmatic considerations to bring into the fold: the thickness of the wall must be thick enough to retain heat yet fine enough for comfortable lip placement; the interior bottom tapered for optimum latte art yet the outside flat for stabilisation; the handles (the handles!) must be comfortable, useful, be stackable, and not breakable. Or do away with them altogether. And after all this, because we don’t live in a society entirely made up of mechanical engineers (I say this with love), they must be pretty.
It is a coupling of technical knowledge and artistic creativity, and why this craft pairs so well with the craft of specialty coffee making. Two industries of artifice that quite literally, go hand in hand.
*Did you know we associate the weight of cutlery with the value of food? So if we were eating a KFC crispy chicken burger with a heavy (and I’m assuming smartly polished) knife and fork, we’d happily pay a whole lot more for it. I have no evidence to back this up, I just heard it somewhere, but it sounds like something I would do for sure.