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Lattes are often served in a cup that looks like this:

latte cup image

Apart from size, is there a particular reason for the shape of the cup? I know that, with cocktails, the many different cocktail glasses you can get are suited to different kinds of drinks. I'm assuming it's the same here, so what is it about a latte that makes it suited for this shape of mug?

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It may be just me, but I think it has to do with aiming for a ratio of foam to liquid in each sip.

Basically a taller cylindrical cup with the same amount of foam on it would cause the first couple of sips to be mostly, if not entirely, foam. With a shorter wider cup you can have a lot of foam, but in a thinner layer, allowing for a more balanced sip and better mouth feel through the duration of the cup.

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I prefer lattes in big wide cups as it allows me to enjoy it with a multitude of senses.

The process of consuming starts by absorbing the warmth of the cup into my hands. This tells me if the latte is too hot to consume. The process also conjures up memories of the Japanese green tea ceremony where two hands are used to drink. It makes me feel connected to traditions that are hundreds of years old.

The wide cup allows for the aroma to reach your nose. Before I drink, I will smell the bitterness of the coffee, the fat from the foam, and perhaps chocolate or cinnamon sprinkled on top. Try with a to-go with a lid on... the experience is not the same. The mouth and tongue feel on smooth porcelain is a pleasant experience that a to-go cup nor a clear bar glass can provide.

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    I like your point comparing coffee drinking to the Japanese tea ceremony. For me, the ritual of coffee making and drinking is just as important as the taste and the caffeine buzz. – hairboat Jan 28 '15 at 17:26
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    While porcelain cups may retain heat better (if they were warmed prior) than a glass or metal cup, wide cups do not help retain heat. Newton's law of cooling says that the larger the surface area, the quicker the transfer of heat. – John Snow Jan 29 '15 at 3:54
  • Yeah, compared to a tall narrow cup of the same material, the short wide one will lose heat faster (I actually wondered if faster cooling was part of the reason for that shape when I asked the question). – starsplusplus Jan 29 '15 at 10:07

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