What’s the Difference Between a Coffee Cup and a Mug?

A coffee cup is a container that holds liquids like tea or coffee. It can be made of ceramic, porcelain, plastic, insulated or uninsulated metal or paper and might have a handle. A mug is a similar container but is typically taller, has a handle and can hold more liquid. While they share some characteristics, cups and mugs are not interchangeable as both have their own purpose. They are also not synonyms and can’t be used in the same sentence.

The coffee cup is used for serving hot drinks like tea, hot chocolate and most commonly, coffee. The most common material for the coffee cup is glass but ceramic and porcelain cups are still widely available. The mug, on the other hand, is used for drinking hot beverages in your home, office or car. It is often used with a saucer, but not always. The mug is typically made of clay or ceramic and can have a decorative handle, although some mugs are more practical and utilitarian in design.

Whether you are drinking a cup of coffee or a mug of hot chocolate, both should be served in a ceramic, plastic or stainless steel mug. Ceramic and porcelain are traditional materials, but heat-resistant glass has become more popular. Glass is also often used for insulated cups that are designed to keep beverages warm longer. Increasingly, consumers are demanding foodservice packaging that is environmentally friendly and sustainable. This has forced coffee cup manufacturers to re-examine end-of-life options.

Coffee cup sustainability is driven by a growing number of consumers, particularly millennials and generation Z, who have raised their expectations for a responsible, convenient, attractive and affordable beverage container. This has led to a re-examination of the economics and environmental impacts of both paper and polyethylene-based disposable coffee cups. In addition, the development of new coating technologies for paperboard, which lower unit cupstock processing costs and reduce the need for polyethylene liners, has a major impact on cup production cost.

While the coffee cup has been a focus of industry debate, mugs are also gaining in popularity. This trend is expected to continue as a significant proportion of hot coffee-based beverages are consumed in these containers, and mugs offer a more versatile choice of use than the conventional coffee cup.

As a result, many retailers are switching to mugs for their single-use hot coffee cups. Some even provide a smart system for using reusable cups that allows consumers to pay a small deposit for their OOH drink and then return the cup for reuse. The system is called Muuse and has been adopted in cities around the world, including Freiburg in Germany where it has helped to drive a shift to reusable coffee cups from plastic OOH cups. Other reusable cup systems include the ReCup, which offers a hard-plastic OOH mug that can be purchased with a EUR1 deposit and returned to participating coffee outlets. These systems are a great way to make the transition from disposable cups to reusable ones more accessible for consumers.

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