Don’t TOUCH My Coffee Mug!

My mother sets a stunning table. She owns several full sets of china, as well as three different sets of flatware – one for everyday use, one for company and one just for holidays. When she serves dinner, everything on the table matches – including the napkins and the glassware. She even sets out cream and sugar on a little china tray with matching creamer and sugar bowl – but her favored coffee mug is 25 years old, old enough that the original “Virginia is for Lovers” design has faded to near illegibility. If she could, she’d take it out to dinner with her for her after dinner coffee, I think. It doesn’t look or feel much different than any other standard coffee mug to me, but she swears that it’s just the right weight, size and ‘feel’ for her coffee. I’d disagree with her, but I too have my favorite coffee mug – one that just seems to fit my hand perfectly and keeps my coffee at just the right temperature for longer than any other I’ve ever had.

It’s an odd relationship between a coffee drinker and their mug. Which makes it all the harder if you decide that a new coffee mug is an easy gift for your favorite coffee lover. Unless you pay attention to their preferences, chances are that you’ll buy them a mug that is destined to collect dust on the pantry shelf, be used to serve coffee to a guest (and one they don’t like very much, at that) or even to be regifted next holiday season.

With all that said, however, I will tell you that my sister-in-law has mastered the art of giving me the perfect coffee mug. I can count on a new coffee mug – or if I’m lucky, an entire set of them – every Christmas from her, usually packed in a pretty basket with my favorite coffee and several packs of Stella D’Oro treats that I can’t find in a local supermarket. I don’t know if she’s just lucky, has good instincts or if she’s actually paid attention to which mug I choose from my mother’s kitchen cabinet and looks for ones just like them. Whatever it is, she’s managed to hit it right every single year for the past five years.

If you’re planning to pick up a new coffee mug as a gift for your favorite coffee lover, here are some tips to help you pick out a coffee mug that will become their new favorite mug.

1. Pay attention to the mug that they typically use.
This is easy if you share an office space or spend a lot of time together. It could be a little trickier if you don’t see them all that often.

2. When in doubt, go for a quality travel coffee mug.

The best travel mugs are heavy enough to resist tipping, and double-walled to keep coffee hot. In addition, they feature a narrow bottom that will fit into the standard auto cup holder and – this one is important – no handle. A travel mug with a handle invites distraction at the wheel. One of the absolute best travel mugs I ever found cost me all of $2.99 at Walgreens. What made it so special was the padded, no slip grip at precisely the right height for my fingers. I liked them so much I bought six – and every single one of them disappeared, probably with someone else that found them just as comfortable to use as I did.

3. Go for a 12 ounce mug, unless you KNOW they love BIG cups.
Twelve ounce mugs are the most popular size on the market. The standard 12 ounce mug will also fit lots of coffee gadgets and accessories – like one cup coffee filters.

4. Pick a mug that comes with something special.

Last year, I picked up a couple of gift sets of “hot chocolate mugs” packaged with a ceramic one-cup hot chocolate maker. The mugs are pretty and destined to be used because they’re part of a set.

5. Skip the gimmicks and funny shapes.

That cow mug with the grinning face molded into the coffee mug may be adorable, but cleaning it will be a royal – well, you know. Likewise with oddly shaped mugs that fit funny in the hand or unusual sizes. Anything over 16 ounces – unless it’s a travel mug – is too heavy and big to lift comfortably.