These are the Hot Beverage Times. The day is short, the weather is puke from the ass of hell, the color green has fled the earth's northern hemisphere entirely, and you cannot always make a nice crackling fire to shore up and/or stand in for your will to live. The reasonable thing, in this case, is to have a nice hot beverage — coffee, tea, hot chocolate, mulled cider, perhaps even soup! — in a warm, comforting mug. To wrap your hands around the mug and let its heat warm the blood circulating through your palms; to suspend your face over the steam rising from its depths, eyes closed, and imagine that you are someplace humid that smells like hot leaves for some reason. And, sure, yes, okay, at some point, to drink this liquid, one little sip at a time, allowing each sip to spread warmth all along the passageway from your lips to your stomach, so that by the time you have finished the hot beverage, not only are you no longer cold, you're actually sweating. Hell yeah.
I am doing this right now, in fact. No, not sweating — not yet. Enjoying a hot beverage, ya dingus! The beverage is black currant tea. It is delightful. I am enjoying it out of the most enlightened of all hot-beverage vessels: a stout, narrow ceramic mug shaped like a cylinder, exactly as wide at the brim as at the base. This is the ideal mug, and all else is folly.
You order coffee or tea at a restaurant or cafe and they bring you a mug shaped like a bowl with a handle: A mug that is wide at the brim, possibly even flared out at the very lip, and then broadly hemispherical down to its narrower base. You know, like a bowl. Sometimes it is even a very large bowl-shaped mug, cartoonishly so, the sort of thing out of which you could eat some cereal for breakfast. Many people seem to think this is the normal — the correct — mug shape. For this reason many people, possibly including you, have bowl-shaped mugs in your very home. You may be considering purchasing a bowl-shaped mug as a gift for your kid’s teacher, or a coworker you like a little bit but not an excessive amount. I too possess bowl-shaped mugs! But this is wrong, and I will never sip my black currant tea from such a vessel. The correct mug shape is: Cylinder. No exceptions.
I was complaining about bowl-shaped mugs to a vile, tea-loving friend of mine the other day when he dared to say that my complaints were "WRONG" because "A small bowl-shaped mug cools things a little quicker while retaining heat." It is true that a bowl-shaped mug cools things more quickly than a cylinder shaped mug: The bowl shape maximizes the amount of liquid exposed to air and thus the amount of heat that can escape it in any given moment. But that is not why bowl-shaped mugs are good; that is why bowl-shaped mugs are bad. Where are you hurrying off to, that you want your specifically hot beverage to become cool so quickly? "Work"? Bullshit. What are "a job" or "a career" or "a steady paycheck" next to the vivifying warmth of a very tiny quantity of scalding hot black coffee trickling down one's throat, followed over the next half-hour by a hundred more very tiny quantities of very hot black coffee? Nothing. For this reason, which is wisdom, I spurn them.
The liquid-cooling properties of a bowl-shaped mug are why the restaurant or cafe or tea shop serves you your hot beverage in one. They want you to get the hell out of their establishment, pronto, to vacate your seat so that they can put somebody else into it. This is more efficiently accomplished if your beverage goes from hot to tepid in 30 seconds; then you will quit stirring and sipping at it, and move along to taking big, disappointed, unhappy gulps of the stuff. They would serve you your tea poured across the flat surface of a butcher block if they could get away with it, the bastards. You have a responsibility to resist this excess of capitalism, in my opinion. That is why I recommend wearing a cylindrical mug hooked onto your pants belt whenever you venture into public: So that you can transfer your hot beverage into it, and then take your damn time drinking it, while making continuous, defiant, confrontational eye-contact with any nearby manager. You may also need a funnel or ladle for this.
But quick beverage cooling is only one of the ways the bowl-shaped mug falls short of the noble cylinder's standard. A large bowl-shaped mug is a recipe for spills: If you take anything larger than the tiniest possible sip of liquid, some of it is going to dribble down the sides of your face and onto your shirt, because the brim of the bowl-shaped mug is too wide for a human mouth. I can hear you saying that this is an argument for a small bowl-shaped mug, rather than an argument for a cylinder-shaped mug. That's how they get you! Now you are drinking a frickin' half a cup of coffee, instead of more coffee than that. A tiny, pathetic volume of coffee, which will be lukewarm and disgusting within like 20 seconds of pouring, because it was not deep enough — mighty enough — to resist the ravages of winter, to which the mug's bowl shape left it exposed. This is unacceptable.
A cylinder-shaped mug presents no such problems. A narrow, cylindrical mug can be frickin' huge, and should be. The ideal mug could be sipped at for a month and still be emitting visible steam afterward. For this purpose it must be cylinder shaped, and also the size of a grain silo. That's fine. I don't want to hear about how it's too big to carry onto the subway.
These are some thoughts I had about the virtues of various mug shapes, as I experimented with drinking hot, satisfying, caffeinated beverages out of them all day. Now to uppercut a hole in the ceiling and challenge God to a pushup contest.