Being seen with a single-use coffee cup was an embarrassment. The very thought of using one was enough to bring on a tidal wave of shame, knowing the vessel would end up in landfill and potentially add to the destruction of the planet.
Then we were told to stop bringing our reusable cups to coffee shops early in the pandemic in an attempt to stem the spread of Covid-19.
Thankfully, a group of more than 100 scientists from across the world quickly moved to reassure that reusable cups can be used safely.
With the 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups used in the UK each year creating 30,000 tonnes of waste annually, it was a welcome move and meant we could go back to being more environmentally responsible coffee drinkers.
If buying your first reusable coffee cup or adding to a collection, the key to consistent use is having one you can keep with you when out and about and are happy to drink from every time you visit a coffee shop.
To help you make the decision about which to go for, we tested some of the best options available. We tried those that are ceramic and stainless steel, and even those made from coffee husks, bamboo and single-use paper cups.
We considered size, insulation, visual appeal and whether there is a risk of leakages if stored away in a bag. All the cups we tested are BPA free. We hope this makes selecting the perfect accessory for your coffee habit a breeze because doing your bit to protect the planet should be an enjoyable experience you look forward to embracing daily.
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Circular&Co reusable coffee cup
An excellent cup made from single-use paper cups. The brand collects waste from UK centres, then processes and makes the cups at its factory in Cornwall, not an air mile in sight. It is designed to last a decade and is 100 per cent recyclable at the end of its life. This cup is totally leak proof because it features a lid that, when pushed, clicks open and closed. We took it with us in a bag on a walk and our coffee was still hot after about an hour, and not a drop was spilled.
We also particularly like that the design makes it feel like drinking from a traditional open mug, and it is dishwasher safe. This from Circular&Co is a brilliant cup all-round and one that helps tackle the problem of single-use cup waste in a more profound way than most.
Ekobo bamboo takeaway mug, 500ml
Made from organic FSC-certified bamboo waste – such as sawdust left over from the manufacturing of chopsticks and flooring – and food-safe melamine, this attractive cup’s environmental credentials go beyond simply being reusable. It is comfortable to hold with a silicone sleeve that makes it non-slip and prevents burnt hands. The black silicone lid fits securely in place, and it features a tab that can be pivoted to plug the opening once you are done with your coffee to prevent leaks. At 500ml, it is a generous cup, so one to consider if you are a fan of long coffees, lattes and hot chocolate or prefer a tea.
Circular&Co NOW cup, 340ml
If you baulk at the price of some reusable coffee cups, the NOW cup – the younger sibling of our best buy – is for you. For only a fiver, you get a cup that is made from single-use paper cups that is designed to last half a decade. And the cup itself is 100 per cent recyclable when those five years are up. We were surprised by the sturdiness of this insulated model and can absolutely believe it will last as long as promised. The design is modelled on that of a single-use cup and features a snap-fit lid. The only downside is that the opening cannot be closed, so it is not leakproof. But for an eco-friendly cup that costs little more than a fancy store-bought coffee, we are not complaining.
Libby Ballard Ceramics short travel mug, 150ml
For those who love the feel of a ceramic cup, this handmade mug will change everything. Each mug begins life as a ball of clay that is thrown on the potter’s wheel at Ballard’s home studio in Wiltshire and is shaped by hand. They are glazed in the same way you would expect a regular mug and dipped to produce a beautiful blend of hues, with four different colour options available. The artistry is outstanding. We use this mug as much at home – with the silicone lid removed – as we do on the go. A silicone band means hands are safe from heat, but keep in mind that the lid cannot be plugged closed, so it is not leakproof. This mug comes exquisitely packaged in paper bubble wrap, tissue paper and a recyclable box tied in a bow, so would make an ideal gift.
Ember travel mug², 355ml
We cannot be the only ones who find themselves forgetting to drink their tea or coffee before it has gone cold. With an Ember, that becomes a problem of the past. The smart mug allows you to set your perfect drinking temperature – between 50C and 62.5C – and you will get a notification from an app on your phone to say it has reached that optimum point, plus the cup will keep it there for three hours. A touch-sensitive display on the mug can also be used to check and change the temperature, so no worry if your phone is not at hand.
The black matte cup looks elegant, and it is comfortable to hold and use, with 360º drinking. Plus, it is 100 per cent leakproof, with a push of the lid to open and close with a tight seal. We tipped it up when it was full several times to test and not a drop comes out. With the mug comes a matte black charging coaster, which we keep on our desks because the battery life does not last beyond those three hours. And despite the internal electrics, this cup is safe to handwash and submersible up to 1m in water, but do not put anything but the lid in the dishwasher.
KeepCup thermal, 340ml
Our tester had long been a KeepCup devotee, having used the brand’s glass model for years, so was excited to give this one a spin. Finding the lid design the same as the original was welcome because it is familiar, comfortable and does not dribble. The minimalist look of this double-walled food-grade stainless-steel cup is appealing, and it is lightweight and comfortable to hold, with no heat reaching the fingertips. We put the vacuum-sealed thermal insulation and the promise of keeping drinks hot to the test and left an americano for about an hour before drinking to find it still piping hot.
KeepCup takes environmental responsibility seriously and works with sustainability consultants who were able to calculate that the Thermal has a lower impact on the planet than disposable cups after only eight uses. And the firm’s website features a smart impact calculator, so users can find out exactly how much plastic and carbon dioxide they save when using this reusable coffee cup.
Huski Home eco-friendly coffee husk travel cup, 400ml
Made from coffee husks, the casing of the bean that is removed during coffee production, this is a truly sustainable cup. It is seriously lightweight and also leakproof, with a hinged stopper for plugging the mouthpiece closed, so we happily stored it in our bag after finishing a drink. Insulation comes from a twin-walled interior that prevents hands from being burnt and keeps hot drinks at their best temperature for about an hour.
Drinking from it is a comfortable experience and the opening is the perfect size to prevent dribbles. The family-run business also has a range of travel cups in beautiful colours made from rice husks.
W&P Porter travel mug, 340ml
In the style stakes, this mug takes first place. It is made from ceramic that is wrapped in gorgeous terrazzo-style matte silicone, so is attractive and comfortable to hold. A push-on lid creates a tight seal that helps to keep coffee warmer for longer and the mouthpiece can be opened and closed with the push of a tab. We tested the cup’s leakproof capability and would recommend keeping it upright when full of coffee because drops can escape, but we would be happy to carry it in a bag after drinking its contents. W&P Porter’s cup is also microwave and dishwasher safe.
Cambridge Crete cup, 500ml
With a generous capacity, this robust stainless-steel cup would be excellent for tea drinkers. Cambridge’s offering is comfortable to hold and drink from, and it features a charming blue and white paint-effect pattern. The lid with silicone seal pushes on tightly to prevent leaks and the mouthpiece can be opened and closed for safe storage. This cup’s insulation powers are impressive, and we drank hot tea out of it for hours. Equally, it can keep cold drinks chilled for a full 24 hours.
Another sustainable cup made from waste coffee husks and food-safe resin, this one is super durable, and the design is striking. The push-on lid is comfortable to drink from and the triangular ventilation holes allow you to enjoy the coffee aromas while sipping. The opening in the lid cannot, however, be plugged and it is not leakproof.
Being a HuskeeCup owner automatically grants access to HuskeeSwap. This ingenious cup exchange club means you can take your used HuskeeCup to any coffee shop in the HuskeeSwap network and be given your coffee in a freshly washed cup. There is even a smartphone app that makes it easy to find participating branches. We also love that the brand operates a collection programme for damaged cups and those that have reached the end of their life. This prevents them from going to landfill and allows them to be repurposed into new Huskee products.
Chilly’s Series 2 coffee cup, 340ml
Chilly’s newest coffee cup is one of the best-looking we tried. This stylish number comes in parts for construction on arrival, which was a little fiddly to put together, but we like that it can be taken apart for thorough cleaning – although that does involve prising off the lid with a knife. The matte coating on the cup is nice to hold, while the drink inside is kept hot for up to four hours, and drinking from the circular opening on the top of the lid is comfortable.
The lid itself can be twisted to seal the hole and make it leak proof, but we found it a little stiff for the first few uses before it started to loosen up after several goes. This is a cup you can make your own with the optional extra of engraving, and it comes in 10 different colours, including peach, pine, whale and pollen.
Bodum travel mug, 350ml
Contrasting stainless steel and a cork band make for a great-looking mug that most would be thrilled to use when out and about. The cup feels sturdy and robust and we are confident it will stand the test of time even if you are a five-americanos-a-day coffee drinker. The insulating double-walled design keeps coffee warm for hours and a hinged mouthpiece plug does a super job of ensuring liquids stay inside the cup.
Topl smart reusable coffee cup, 230ml
Very clever. A cup that will not spill coffee all over you and your laptop if you accidentally knock it over. The lid automatically snaps shut when it is jolted from an upright position and there are no electrics involved. Of course, we had to put the claim to the test and “accidentally” knocked our cup of coffee over a few times. We were happy to find the spill-safe valve kicks in quickly enough to prevent any major spillages beyond a few drops.
The stainless-steel cup feels comfortable to hold and insulation means the subtly textured surface remains cool. Drinking from the ergonomically designed TOPL is equally pleasant. The lid is opened for 360º drinking with a quarter-turn twist and the pressing down of the centre, then locked again fully with a twist back once you are done. It also comes with a little drawstring bag made from recycled ocean plastic for storage when you have finished your drink.
The verdict: Reusable coffee cups
There is so much to love about Circular&Co’s cup that it had to be our top pick. The recover, reuse and recycle approach is admirable, and no compromises have been made in the drinking experience. Plus, it is lightweight, looks good and is a steal at £12.95. Those made from coffee production waste, from Huski Home and the HuskeeCup, are also cups we would happily recommend and enjoy using, while TOPL deserves a mention for a smart design that prevents spillages.
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