With the looming “latte levy” and with many coffee shops now offering a discount for the use of reusable coffee cups, travel cups/mugs are becoming ncreasingly popular, which I think is a great thing, as the disposable cup problem definitely needs sorting.
You’re probably already well aware of what the problem is with disposable cups, but in case you’re not – basically, although many of them may show a recycling image on them, around 99% of disposable cups aren’t recycled due to specialist recycling plants needing to process this kind of cup, of which there are only three in the UK.
So they end up in landfill, and they also end up in the oceans, and that’s bad. In fact according to the article Plastic Pollution, by sloactive, 10-20 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans each year, which breaks down to 5.25 trillion or so plastic particles – so, actually, say this is bad is probably just a slight understatement!
Switching from disposable to reusable coffee cups won’t instantly solve this problem of course, but with the UK alone chucking away around two and a quarter billion disposable cups each year, it’s probably one of the most obvious areas to focus on, after disposable plastic bags.
By the way, in case you’re wondering which coffee shops are currently offering a discount for taking a reusable coffee cup, at the time of writing Pret are offering 50p off, Costa & Starbucks 25p, Caffe Nero: double loyalty stamps, Greggs are offering 20p, and there are many independent coffee shops all over the country offering discounts.
Some are even stopping offering disposable cups, Grindsmith in Manchester, for example, has gone completely disposable cup free, at their Greengate pod coffee shop, and are offering a 25p discount for anyone who brings in their own reusable cup, and if you don’t – the only option is to drink in.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen with this levy thing, but this discount acts as a levy anyway, if more cafe’s are doing the same, whether it’s a discount for people using reusable cups, or a levy for people who aren’t, the same is true in that if you want a take away coffee (or tea, or hot chocolate, whatever floats your boat) in many cafes it’ll cost you more than if you’d have gone in with your own reusable cup.
Anyway, enough of that – the fact you’ve ended up reading this post probably means you’re already sold on the need to ditch the disposable and reach for the reusable – so with that being said:
Which are the best reusable coffee cups in the UK?
There’s a lot of choice, which I think is a good thing, and I don’t think there is a “best” as such, because it depends on what features in particular are best for you, but my intention with this post is to help you to figure out which might be the best reusable coffee cup specifically for you.
The first question to ask, is are you looking for a reusable coffee cup as a direct replacement to takeaway cups, or are you looking for more – such as increased thermal performance, to keep your coffee hot for longer, and increased spill resistance. Do you want to be able to sling your full brew in your bag and drink it in half an hour when you’re on the train or in the office, for example?
Knowing what you’re looking for will make it much easier to find it, obviously ;-), and when it comes to reusable cups/travel cups/travel mugs, I think a lot of people tend to use these terms interchangeably which can lead to ending up with the wrong product – as I can see when I look at the reviews for some of these products by users who clearly misunderstood what kind of a cup they were buying.
Reusable coffee cups — Travel Cups — Travel Mugs
Imagine a sliding scale starting at a reusable cup at one end (a reusable replacement to a disposable takeaway coffee cup), and increasing from there in terms of heat retention and leak/spill resistance, going all the way to a thermos style 100% leak proof travel mug at the other end which you can hold upside down without leaking, and which will keep your coffee hot for hours.
I think this is quite a handy exercise when it comes to figuring what kind of cup you need.
In fact, no need to imagine, here you go ;-):
On the reusable cup end of the scale, we’re not looking for much more thermal ability or spill resistance than a paper cup.
So if literally all you’re looking for is for a reusable version of a takeaway cup, so you can get your coffee served in your own cup and get the available discount, then something like the Bamboo Ecoffee cup, or the Keepcup changemakers original, the Keepcup Brew, or a collapsible cup like Pokito, are all popular choices for a straight reusable replacement for disposable coffee cups.
These kinds of cups are really just that, reusable cups, rather than travel cups as such, although, I think with most of these cups you will get at least slightly better performance when it comes to heat resistance and leak resistance, and increased comfort via a thicker holding strip than the card ones that we’re used to with disposable cups.
If you’re wanting a replacement to takeaway coffee cups but at the same time you were hoping for a bit more performance when it comes to spill resistance and heat retention, then you need to be looking closer towards the middle of the scale above.
For example, Keepcup do a glass option called longplay, which has a special plastic coating to boost the heat retention abilities of this cup, and the lids do a pretty good job when it comes to stopping leaks, as long as you’re keeping them upright and you’re not planning on putting them in a bag or something.
The Bodum plastic double walled mugs which I’ve put pretty much slap bang in the middle of this illustration above, do a pretty good job at heat retention too, I have the clear plastic ones from Bodum that were recently a special buy at Aldi for a fiver, and while they don’t have the same heat retention as the heavier and more pricey stainless steel vacuum travel mugs that feature on the right hand side of the image above, they do a much better job than paper, bamboo and single-walled glass and plastic.
I did some testing and freshly boiled water in this particular cup was at 82c after 10 mins, 78c after 15 mins, 76c after 20 mins, 72c after 30 mins. This quite a bit better than disposable coffee cups would do, and the single wall plastic or bamboo travel cups.
These kind of cups are also generally a bit better when it comes to spill/leak resistance than disposable coffee cups, and they’re much more comfortable to hold, as the double wall insulation means that the outer skin of plastic isn’t in direct contact with the hot liquid.
The Bodum stainless steel travel cup, for instance, is almost cold to touch when it’s full of hot coffee, and when I tested it, it was still at 87C after 30 mins, and 78C after one hour, so they’re very good for heat retention. But these kinds of cups/mugs still aren’t quite at the far end of the scale, as they’re not fully leak proof.
See my best travel cups in the UK post for more.
Going towards the other end of that scale, we have the stainless steel travel mugs such as the Bodum stainless steel & Thermos ThermoCafé, these kinds of mugs are better still when it comes to heat retention and holding comfort, and they tend to be better for leak resistance, although many of the travel mugs at this end of the scale are still not 100% leak proof.
Some appear to claim they are when you read their marketing blurb, but you have to apply some context to marketing blurb like this.
Apart from the fact that an alternative word for marketing rhymes with “dull pit” 😉 – to be fair, there’s an argument to say that what is meant by “will not spill” or “will not leak” or “no drips” – relates to the expected use of the product, which for most cups like this would be just holding it upright, walking with it and drinking from it, as they’re not meant to be launched into bags, etc., while mugs at the very other end of the scale are made specifically for slinging in a bag or putting in a bike bottle cage etc.,
On the far right-hand side of the scale, we have fully insulated, fully leak-proof travel mugs such as Contigo Autoseal, Frank Green Smart Cup, Thermos Direct, Stanley Classic, Camelbak Forge, etc., for more like this see my best leak proof travel mugs post.
So there you go, hopefully, if you’ve got to the end of this post, A) you’re still awake ;-), coffee will have helped, and B) you now have a better understanding of which type of reusable coffee cup is best specifically for your current needs, so you’ll end up buying the right one.
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