I’ve consumed coffee nearly every day of my life since I was 20 years old and I still don’t have a favourite mug.I’ve drank from mugs that bragged “#1 Lover” and “Life is richer in New Westminster”; I’ve drank from mugs that had little porcelain moose turds at the bottom; and I’ve even drank from a semi-circular mug that cheekily proclaimed, “You asked for half a cup”.None of these receptacles stole my heart.But shortly after moving back to the Yukon in the fall of 2008, I realized that I did indeed have a favourite type of coffee mug.Upon my return I lived with my parents and habitually started my day with Bodum-fresh Birdsong Blend. And each morning I instinctively reached past the standard mugs for a particular specimen that I enjoyed drinking from. It wasn’t the logo that I liked (it had worn off); it was the form of the object.A standard mug — you probably have eight in your cupboard — is 7.5 cm wide at its base and 8 cm wide at its rim; its height is 8.5 cm. Filling it to within a centimetre of its rim will produce a volume of 250 ml. As a frame of reference, a medium Tim Hortons coffee is about 400 ml.Make no mistake, the standard mug is a fine coffee-drinking instrument, but it pales in comparison to my preferred type.At its base, my favourite style of mug has a 5.5 cm diameter, and at its rim its diameter is 9 cm. It also stands 9 cm tall. Leaving a centimetre at the top, its volume will just squeak over 300 ml.So why do I prefer the latter type of mug to the standard variety?Firstly, 300 ml of coffee is more satisfying than 250 ml.This isn’t to say that a coffee mug should aim solely for volume maximization; once a mug gets too big it begins to look goofy. Also, if a mug is really large it eliminates the need for a top-up — and pouring yourself a refill is one of the true pleasures of drinking coffee.Secondly, because the standard mug has nearly the same width at the top and bottom, its outer edge is virtually vertical. However, my favourite kind of mug is 3.5 centimetres wider at the top than the bottom. This gap is bridged by an aesthetically pleasing curved edge that expands the mug outward as its height increases.Lastly, a standard mug has a wimpy handle; it is neither as wide nor as thick as the handle on my favourite style of mug. Furthermore, I can only fit two fingers into the handle of a standard mug but I can place three fingers into the handle of my chosen mug.The result is that I can grab my preferred coffee mug with satisfying gusto, whereas I have to be annoyingly dainty when handling a standard mug.There are those who poo-poo the importance of carefully designing the objects we live with, but they do so in favour of shortsighted utilitarian calculations. The fact remains that if you pour identical coffee into two containers I will enjoy the experience of drinking that coffee out of one container more than the other.And if the importance of design holds true for something as small as coffee mugs, imagine how important it is when the scale is multiplied.
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