The evolution of the teacup began in China and spread through Europe in the 17th century as a handle-free vessel. Chinese teacups had no handles and were held by the thumb and forefinger at the lip and base of the cup. Europeans’ intolerance of the hot temperature eventually led to the addition of the handle.
As the popularity of tea spread throughout Europe, craftsmen and hostesses alike struggled with ways to improve the tea service. Although silver was a durable metal, it maintained heat almost too well. During the 1600s, a transition from fine silver cups to porcelain ones began.