As an addict of the early morning cup of tea, I know that I am very lucky to have a kind hubby who makes one for me every morning and leaves it by the bed. Unfortunately, as he gets up much earlier than I do, I often find that my tea is cold when I wake up. Over the years I have tried a variety of methods to keep my tea warm, from china cups with separate lids, to thermal flasks. Of them all, the thermal flask travel mug was by far the best buy, but the downside was that they have to be washed by hand as they are not dishwasher safe.
When I first heard of porcelain thermal travel mugs that could be washed in the dishwasher, I was delighted and rushed out to give them a try.
These mugs first hit the market as the 'eco mug'; an environmentally friendly alternative to the tall paper cups that you get takeaway coffee in from places such as Costa or Starbucks. The first one to become really popular was the 'I'm Not a Paper Cup' Mug - a white thermal mug that was designed to look exactly like a disposable takeaway coffee cup.
From this start, the market seemed to blossom, and it is now possible to buy ceramic thermal mugs in all types of designs. Prices range from £5.99 to £12.00. I chose a design from the UK company Creative Tops, who produce unusually designed tableware for sale over the internet as well as in local stores. It came from their 'Don't Throw Me Away' collection.
My mug is red, and has the Keep Calm and Carry on slogan on the front. I paid £9.95 in my local Steamer Trading Cookshop, but I also had the choice of a variety of flowered and patterned mugs - or mugs with slogans such as 'Don't Throw Me Away'.
The mug is fairly heavy and feels robust. Just before I bought it, I looked as a cheaper version for £5.99 in another shop, but could immediately see that my mug was heavier and had more effective insulation. One obvious sign of this, apart from the thicker mug wall, was that the Creative Tops mug has no rubber holding grip around the outside. The cheaper models have this grip, which indicates to me that the mug is hot to hold - and therefore not keeping in as much heat!
Looking around the same size as a takeaway mug, this mug stands 13cm high and is an attractive pillar box red colour. The lip and the words 'Keep Calm and Carry On' are white and the whole finish is unblemished with a nice bright shine.
The walls of the mug are thick because of their double walled design, helping to insulate the liquid inside. The lid is made from a white flexible silicone with the words 'Caution contents hot' embossed on the top. The lid also has a 1cm drinking hole. Both lid and mug are dishwasher and microwave safe.
The mug is cleverly designed so that the drinking lip is substantially thinner than the insulating walls. This is a big plus, as some of the thermal mugs that I have had in the past have extremely thick walls and lead to embarrassing dribbles down the side of my mouth as I drink.
Using the mug
The most important thing for me was the ability to keep my tea hot in the morning! In this respect the mug performed well, although not quite as well as an ordinary thermal thermos travel mug. Externally, the insulation performed very well - I could hold the mug very easily with very hot liquid inside. The walls were barely warm and there was no need for a protective holding ring.
Internally, the mug did keep my tea warmer much longer than a normal mug. After 30 minutes the tea is still pleasantly warm and nice to drink. After 45 minutes, it starts to become a little tepid and although still drinkable, is probably a bit on the cool side.
I usually remove the silicone lid and drink from the lip, but on the occasions that I have drunk through the hold in the lid I have found the design to be very good. The silicone does not give a rubbery taste to the tea although it is not quite as good as the hard plastic lids that come with disposable cups. The size of the drinking hole is perfect - just big enough to suck liquid through without dribbling or spilling. The liquid does come out slowly though, and the force of sucking the liquid out makes the whole lid become concave.
I am very happy with my purchase. Although the porcelain mug does not keep liquid quite as hot as a thermos mug, the advantages of a nice design, the pleasure of drinking out of china rather than plastic or metal, and the ability to put it in the dishwasher - all make up for the less efficient insulation.