drinking coffee from saucer
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
May 19, 2020 ·  4 min read

Did People Actually Drink Coffee From a Saucer?

Coffee has become a sort of subculture these days. Sure, most of us enjoy a cuppa every morning, probably with some milk and sweetener. We like to frequent coffee shops and sip seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice lattes in the fall, peppermint mocha in the winter, and frappuccinos in the summer. Some like to order a different drink every time and some prefer ‘the usual.’  

Some people take coffee very seriously. They refuse instant and prefer to grind their own beans. There are so many fancy coffee machines designed to create the perfect cup of joe, sometimes topped with foam.  To them, the thought of pumpkin spice and chocolate peppermint paired with coffee is sacrilegious. Hey, everyone has their own way of enjoying this drink.  

Coffee has been paired with almost every flavor. It’s been iced. It’s been mixed with tea and alcohol. Its ratio of sugar and milk has been adjusted from one extreme to the other. Different beans have been tested and tasted. We drink coffee out of mugs, teacups, mason jars, thermoses, and paper or foam on-the-go cups. One might think it’s impossible to find a new way to enjoy a cup of joe. 

Before this new age of coffee, people had a long-forgotten method of enjoying this iconic beverage: sipping from the saucer. 

Why Drink Coffee from the Saucer? 

The reason is quite simple. Pouring a bit of coffee into the saucer makes it cool enough to drink. When this practice was more commonplace, coffee was boiled and served extremely hot. The shallow, wide surface of the saucer provides an easy, efficient, and polite way of sipping while the drink was still scalding hot. This method had also been used for tea.  

No one really knows where this practice originated. References show it was common in Scandinavia and Russia. In Sweden, drinkers purposely overflow their cups to sip from the saucer. Then they would place a lump of sugar between their front teeth and drink the coffee through it. This tradition is called “dricka på bit” or “drink with a lump.” [1]  

Coffee was a gamechanger when it came to Britain. Coffee shops became more popular than pubs. Like today, everyone visited, from artists to bankers to politicians, often each kind of person congregating in specific shop location. [2]  

Read: 129 Ways to Get a Husband in the 1950s (a dated and hilarious list)

Sipping from the Saucer Through the Centuries 

In the 18th century, the saucer method was widespread. In fact, it was used as a parable to how the American government was created. The legend goes that when Thomas Jefferson returned to the United States after being in France during the Constitutional Convention, he questioned why the delegates had formed two houses of Congress. [3] 

“Why did you pour that tea into your saucer?” asked George Washington 

“To cool it,” said Jefferson 

“Even so,” responded Washington, “we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” [4] 

Saucering continued into the 20th century, although it was become seen as less polite. If you are familiar with The Little House series of books, you might remember an exert from the second installment, Farmer Boy, where Father Wilder drank tea out of the saucer instead of using a cup. 

Eliza Jane was more bossy than ever. She said Almanzo’s boots made too much noise. She even told Mother that she was mortified because Father drank tea from his saucer. 

“My land! How else would he cool it?” Mother asked. 

“It isn’t the style to drink out of saucers any more,” Eliza Jane said. “Nice people drink out of the cup.”  

Read: 10 Priceless Quotes That All Grandparents Will Love

Drinking from the Saucer Today? 

Today, you might find some elderly people who remember and still use this practice but it’s definitely not as common as it once was. After all, most coffee shops don’t serve their drinks with saucers. And even if they did, it’s unlikely you’d find anyone drinking from it.  

However, if you happen to be impatiently waiting for a cup of joe to cool and you’ve got a saucer handy, why not give saucering a try? Like cola in a glass bottle or tea from a real teacup, it might make the coffee taste better. Be careful not to burn yourself as you pour the coffee. Also, ensure the saucer is deep enough to hold liquid. Plus, make sure you are alone so that no one would be annoyed by the slurping, and… perhaps there is a reason this practice has been left in the past. 

Keep Reading: 12 Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That Most Of Us Have Forgotten)

  1. Sarah Ramsey. Drinking Coffee From A Saucer is an Old Tradition Your Grandparents Probably Did. Wide Open Eats. https://www.wideopeneats.com/drinking-coffee-from-a-saucer/ April 15, 2020 
  2.  Cioffi Importers. History Behind The Coffee Cup And Plate. https://cioffimporters.com/latest/coffee_history/ December 13, 2015 
  3. Appalachian Magazine. Old Time Practice: Drinking Coffee from Saucers. https://appalachianmagazine.com/2019/03/05/old-time-practice-drinking-coffee-from-saucers/ March 5, 2019 
  4. Jonathan Strong and Humberto Sanchez. STOCK Act Spurs a Role Reversal. Roll Call. https://www.rollcall.com/2012/02/11/stock-act-spurs-a-role-reversal/ February 11, 2012