Are demitasse cups miniatures of regular coffee cups? If not, what is the difference?

That question and the idea for this article came to me as I was washing dishes a few days ago. Yes, I must admit it . . . I love to wash dishes by hand even though I have a nice dishwasher right next to me at the sink. I simply find it relaxing to have my hands in warm, sudsy, water. Anyway, back to how I came up with the idea for this article. As I was rinsing off an orange mug with a big smiley face on the front, I noticed a label on the bottom of the mug. The label read, “tasse.” Tasse means cup or mug. This started me thinking about all the different sizes of cups and mugs that I own. Some I bought for myself, some were gifts, and some belonged to my mother.

I thought about the two small cups that I saved back from my mother’s china set—two demitasse cups, along with their saucers and small gold spoons. As I continued washing the dishes, it occurred to me that I should write an article about the history of the demitasse cup and saucer and the difference in those and regular-sized cups and saucers. So, I did just that.

First, what is a demitasse cup? The term Demitasse originated in France in the 1800s and translates to “half cup.” Of course, it has many other names depending on which country you are in. (Those names will be addressed later.) Whatever the name, these small cups and their matching saucers were used for coffee or tea at the end of a meal. In some cases, the serving of the coffee or tea was done in another room, rather than at the dining table. With no television, internet, or cell phone to interrupt, people had the time to sit, sip, and visit. Although I was too young to participate in the coffee drinking, I do remember my parents and their guests drinking from those tiny little cups.

Demitasse cups come in a variety of shapes and are often confused with chocolate cups or miniatures. By the way, chocolate sets were also a French innovation and very popular during the eighteenth century. They were usually larger and taller than coffee cups. Some had two handles and a cover. That said, most demitasse cups measure about two to two and a half inches tall. When they meet that criterion, they are not considered miniature or a child’s cup. However, you may hear them called by one of those names from time to time. If the demitasse cup has a matching saucer, the saucer measures about four to four and a half inches in diameter. The saucers were very important because of drips from the strong coffee or tea that was served. Small, dainty spoons that measured about three to four inches were used to stir sugar, milk or cream into hot beverages.

Demitasse cups are still used. Most are white and can be found in restaurants, cafes, and coffee houses throughout the world. If you would like to purchase some of the cups, whether new or vintage, you can find them in retail stores, antique stores, estate sales or online.

As mentioned earlier, the demitasse cup is called by many different names, depending on which country you are in. Here are some examples: Demitassekop is Dutch, Mokkatasse is German, Tazzina is Italian, Copo demitasse is Portuguese, and Copa tacita or pocillo is Spanish. By whatever name you call them, they somehow make drinking your coffee, tea or chocolate more special.

Let us examine once more the main differences in regular coffee cups and demitasse cups. Obviously, the size is the main difference; the shape is the other. Coffee cups have a more vertical side and a bigger handle for two or three fingers. Demitasse cups are about one-half the size of a regular coffee cup but is not technically considered a miniature or a child’s cup. The shape of the demitasse cup has evolved through the centuries, from the original ornate design to the sleek, minimal design of today. (For the tea drinkers out there, teacups have wide, open rims that taper down to a small base with handles that are designed to hook a single finger.)

There you have it. You now know the difference in demitasse cups and regular coffee cups. Perhaps you will be able to impart some of this knowledge while gathered around the dining table with family and friends during the holidays—probably a much safer topic than politics.

IDEA: The next time you have difficulty coming up with a gift idea for someone special, consider the demitasse cup. Be creative. Put together a one-of-a-kind, just-for-them gift package.

If you need help with organizing or downsizing, please get in touch with me. My phone number is 903-339-6101; cell phone is 903-284-0283; e-mail is Now, go and enjoy a nice cup of coffee, tea or chocolate and relax a few minutes. Use your demitasse cup if you just so happen to have one.

Lynda (Pike) Litterst is a professional organizer in Jacksonville. PURRsonal ReDesigns was started out of her love for decorating and organizing. Visit www.PURRsonalReDesigns for a complete overview.

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