When you’re handed a coffee, you probably don’t wonder about the little plate the cup is sitting on. It’s standard practice in the industry to serve coffee with a saucer, for reasons like convenience and neatness. It’s a clean place to rest the spoon, it’s a stabilizing way to carry the cup and catch drips, and it’s a sharing plate in case your friend shows up and wants to some of your pastry. But the saucer used to play a very different role in coffee consumption.
In the 18th century, especially in Victorian society, it was common for one to pour tea or coffee into the saucer and sip it from the little plate itself. The wider surface area allowed the beverage to cool faster, while coffee in the cup remained hot until the drinker was ready for more. In some cultures today, they still sip their coffee and tea from saucers.
Now you know. We won’t judge if you want to try it out on your next visit.
My maternal grandmother used to drink her coffee from the saucer all the time. She grew up and lived in the backwoods of Appalachian Virginia coal country. Never saw anyone else do that.
Saw a guy on the HBO series “Deadwood” drink coffee from his saucer. I didn’t know that was an accepted practice at one time. That’s an interesting bit of information, thanks!
I have read that this is a tradition that came from Sweden and India. But I think it is more wide spread. My grandparents were from LA (Lower Alabama) and they both did that. My family goes back to the early Virginia settlers and stayed in the South. I think it came about as it has been explained–to help cool the coffee or tea.