MUG MAY 2022:
A Brief History of Mugs
This month sees the return of Mug May; a celebration of all the wonderful places I’ve visited, fascinating museums I’ve explored, and creatives I’ve met. Each day in May I publish a post on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram featuring a mug connected to one of the above, along with links to their websites etc. This year, Mug May is being held in association with the Books and a Cuppa readers group on Facebook where you can find recommendations for your next read whilst enjoying a brew from your favourite mug. We’d love to see photos of your favourite mug, too. Simply post it to either Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with #MugMay. Your mug may even end up in our ‘Hall of Fame’ collage released on the 31st May!
A Brief History of Mugs
Humans have been drinking from mugs since roughly between 3900 BC - 1700 BC when they were vessels carved from wood or animal skulls. Other forms the humble mug has taken includes lead mugs in approximately 3000 BC and beaker pots (which were pottery in the shape of bells) in around 2400 BC. Unsurprisingly, the former tended to cause lead poisoning when drank from over a long period of time. Ceramic mugs, like those we use today, were first introduced in the Middle Ages.
Although mugs can hold both hot and cold beverages, tea and coffee are arguably the most commonly used. Many prefer the larger capacity a mug affords compared to the traditional tea and coffee cups, especially when it’s the first tea or coffee of the day! Whether we realise it or not, we all have that mug we instinctively reach for in the cupboard. Whilst at work, the differences in patterns, colour and images on our mugs allow us to claim them as our own, thereby preventing others from using our “drink receptacle.” They can also say a lot about us, whether it be by the humorous slogan printed on the side or the amount of coffee stains and/or scratches caused by teaspoons found therein.
London’s first coffee house opened in 1652. According to HomeSteady.com, in “1748, Britain banned coffee and all merchandise associated with it, including mugs. This led to a shortage of mugs, and the black-market prices for mugs rose.” If true, this may have been due to the fact that coffee houses had become gathering places for the high-born and common man to gather. Therein, they’d consume the (addictive) coffee and discuss many things, including politics and the latest scientific theories. As a result, coffee houses became pivotal in driving forward intellectual progress in this era. If coffee and mugs were banned today, I suspect it would cause riots!
Sources of reference:
Online Etymology Dictionary
~ T.G. Campbell,May 2022
‘Mug (n.) “small, cylindrical drinking vessel, often with a handle,” 1560s, “bowl, pot, jug,” of unknown origin, perhaps from Scandinavian (compare Swedish mugg “earthen cup, jug,” Norwegian mugge “pitcher, open can for warm drinks”), or Low German mokke, mukke “mug,” also of unknown origin. Hence mug-hunter (1883) “one who enters sporting contests solely to win prizes” (frequently in the form of engraved cups), a term of contempt.’
~ Online Etymology Dictionary