Does Your Teacup Matter?

In matters of your teacup, COLOR matters.

If color didn’t matter, marketers wouldn’t be investing research dollars to optimize the color of that kid’s cereal box or the upscale restaurant menu.

Mug by Delores Fortuna (photo used with the artist’s permission)

We are easily swayed by our own perceptions, with a 2014 study showing that a cup’s color influences how people rate the flavor of coffee and hot chocolate.

This is nothing new, however!

Already in the 8th century, Chinese scholar and tea expert Lu Yu had definite opinions about the color of his teacup.

A white vessel? It made green tea appear an undesirable red. Yellow or brown? Made the tea look purple, even worse.

green-gunpwd-webGreen, however, was considered by Yu to be the best option, with its hue “enhanc[ing] the color of the tea in just the way required” (Faulkner 2003).

Color of the vessel is not the only parameter, however. Lighting obviously plays a role, as does the size of the cup.

Using Temple of Heaven China Gunpowder (a green tea), a few different cups, and identical lighting (on my counter next to a window on a cloudy day), the difference is easy to see.

I brewed in a glass beaker, in which the tea color changes slightly depending on if you view the beaker from the side or the top:


Tea hue changed according to the size and depth, as well as color, of the teacup:


So just what color IS my tea?

And more importantly, what expectations do I bring to the cup—before I even taste it—based on what I perceive?

–Faulkner, R. Tea: East and West, V&A Publications, London, 2003.
–Van Doorn, G. H., D. Wuillemin, and C. Spence. “Does the colour of the mug influence the taste of the coffee?” Flavour 3:10, 2014.

Temple of Heaven China Gunpowder is available at

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