Who Invented the Coffee Cup?

The invention of the coffee cup as we know it today cannot be attributed to a single individual, as it has evolved over centuries alongside the global spread of coffee culture. However, the concept of a dedicated vessel for drinking coffee became more defined with the coffee boom in Europe in the 17th century. Before this, coffee was consumed in various regions around the world, including Africa and the Middle East, where it was often served in vessels that were also used for other beverages.

Historical Context

  • Middle Eastern Origins: Coffee drinking began in the Middle East in the 15th century, with the first coffee houses appearing in Yemen and spreading throughout the Ottoman Empire. The traditional vessels used for coffee in these regions were small, handle-less cups known as "fincans" in Turkey and "qahwa cups" in the Arab world, made from ceramic or metal.
  • European Adaptation: As coffee spread to Europe, the design of the coffee cup adapted to European tastes and materials. The introduction of the coffee house in cities like Venice, London, and Paris in the 17th century saw the adaptation of existing cup designs to accommodate this new beverage. The Europeans began to use porcelain cups, influenced by Chinese tea cup designs brought to Europe by traders.
  • Porcelain Revolution: The development of porcelain in Europe, particularly by Johann Friedrich Böttger and Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus in Germany in the early 18th century, led to the creation of the first European porcelain coffee cups. Meissen Porcelain, established in 1710, was among the first to produce these cups, which featured elaborate designs and often included a saucer to catch drips and a handle to protect fingers from the hot surface of the cup.

Modern Innovations

  • Paper Coffee Cups: The invention of the paper coffee cup is a more recent development, with the "Dixie Cup" created by Lawrence Luellen and Hugh Moore in the early 20th century as a means to promote public hygiene. The modern disposable paper coffee cup with a lid was developed for on-the-go coffee consumption in the 20th century, with several inventors contributing to its evolution, including the introduction of the insulated, corrugated cup to protect hands from hot beverages.
  • Travel Mugs and Reusable Cups: The late 20th and early 21st centuries have seen innovations in coffee cups designed for mobility and sustainability, including the travel mug and reusable coffee cups made from materials like stainless steel, silicone, and bamboo. These developments reflect a growing awareness of environmental issues and the desire for convenience.


While no single person can be credited with inventing the coffee cup, its development reflects the rich history of coffee culture and the changing needs and values of societies over time. From the fincans of the Ottoman Empire to the porcelain masterpieces of Europe and the modern insulated travel mugs, the coffee cup has evolved to become an essential part of the coffee-drinking experience.

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