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Best reusable coffee cups and travel mugs

We've compared five reusable coffee cups and travel mugs to find the best one for you.

January 28th 2022

By Savannah Coombe / 11 min read

Reusable keep cups

As society shifts to be more focused on making eco-conscious choices, we will see big changes in the way we lead our lives. Here at New Kings Coffee, we have put a lot of effort into trying to ensure we run our business as sustainably as possible.

We use completely recyclable packaging, from box to bag. Our boxes are recyclable in the cardboard bin (including the paper tape) and our bags can go straight into your food waste bin where they will decompose. Our coffee is organic, Fairtrade and vegan. Sustainability is one of the main foundations of our business and we’re pretty sure our customers feel the same.

One of the biggest benefits of making your coffee at home is that it has significantly less impact on the environment. According to The Guardian, Britain goes through 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups each year. This has a significant environmental impact. It is estimated that to produce this vast quantity of coffee cups we use 1.5 billion litres of water, cut down 1 million trees and produce 152,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is simply not sustainable.

A simple and common solution is to start making your coffee at home more. New Kings Coffee gives you a delicious, quick and eco-friendly way to do this. If you are in a rush to get to work or take the kids to school, buy yourself a great reusable coffee cup so you can enjoy your coffee on the run. There are several options for coffee cups on the market today. Some common varieties of materials are glass, bamboo, coffee husks and recycled plastic. They all have their own merits, and it can be hard as a newbie reusable coffee cup user to know which one to go for.

hand holding reusable coffee cups

Recycled Materials Reusable Coffee Cup by Circular&Co

We decided to examine five common types of coffee cups and find out more about each one, especially their environmental impact. We will then create a rating system and score each one based on five factors: taste, heat retention, ease of holding, utility and sustainability.

Taste will refer to how pure the coffee tastes. You don’t want your reusable coffee cup to interfere with the taste of the coffee. We want the coffee to taste as similar as possible to drinking it out of a normal coffee mug. Heat retention and sustainability are both quite self-explanatory. How well does the reusable coffee cup keep the coffee hot after it is left for 20 minutes? And how environmentally friendly is the production of the material used to make the coffee cup? Is it recyclable? Of course, just by using a reusable coffee cup you are having a positive impact on the environment, but how does the cup go above and beyond this? Utility is how many of the following boxes the reusable coffee cup ticks: is it microwaveable? Is it dishwasher-safe? Is the drinking hole functional?

 All five factors will be scored out of ten and we will then determine the King of all coffee cups. We also kept a ‘control’ mug of New Kings Coffee Autumn Seasonal Roast (the same roast we used for the experiment) to refresh our palettes between each sip and ensure the reusable coffee cups didn’t change the taste of the coffee. 

hand holding reusable coffee cups

Huskee Cup

Glass Reusable Coffee Cup:

A long-standing material used for containing liquid! It is an age-old adage that things just taste better in glass. Have you ever noticed how much more refreshing Coca-Cola is when you drink it from a glass bottle versus a can? We used the brand KeepCup for our experiment.

We had high hopes for the glass receptacle. The main issue we found was that, although the container itself is glass, the lid is still plastic. This means that you end up with a plasticky taste in your mouth with every sip. Its heat retention was about average, it came third out of all the coffee cups. It’s ease of holding potential was also fairly average. As seen in the image, the glass has a cork band around it where you are meant to hold the cup. This is quite thin however and you end up touching the glass (which is very hot!) or holding it gingerly and awkwardly.

In terms of utility:
Is it microwaveable? Yes, without the lid on.
Is it dishwasher-safe? Yes, top shelf only.
Is the drinking hole functional? Yes.

As for the question of sustainability, glass is a good option as it can be fully recycled. Glass recycling is available extensively across the UK. The cork ring however is not easily recycled. The plastic lid can be recycled, but plastic recycling is contentions. The Guardian states that only 9% of plastic produced globally gets recycled, mostly due to the expensive costs associated with breaking down this material. 

Rating
Taste5/10
Heat Retention6/10
Ease of Holding6/10
Utility8/10
Sustainability
4/10
Overall Score29/50

Plastic Reusable Coffee Cup

This is a popular material for reusable coffee cups but is not without its controversy. It’s often thought that plastic doesn’t retain heat particularly well and can change the taste of your drink. We used the brand KeepCup for our experiment.

The taste element was proved correct in our experiment. There is a definite plasticky taste when you sip from this mug. Despite previous preconceptions, the plastic reusable coffee cup kept the coffee the hottest out of all the cups. It didn’t have great ease of holding however, because the coffee was so hot it really resonated through the plastic to your hand. At points it was basically impossible to hold and so we have given this cup the lowest score for this category.

In terms of utility:
Is it microwaveable? Yes, without the lid on and only up to 100°C.
Is it dishwasher-safe? Yes, top shelf only.
Is the drinking hole functional? Yes.

Plastic is famously controversial. There is a huge global movement to reduce the amount of plastic we use daily. As previously stated, the vast majority of plastic is not recycled and ends up in a landfill. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose: one plastic straw can take over 200 years, imagine how long it takes to break down an entire plastic reusable coffee cup? This is actually worse than a single-use coffee cup which takes 20 years. For this reason, we have decided to deduct negative points for this rating. We cannot justify the use of something that will still be around in possibly more than 400 years. 

Rating
Taste2/10
Heat Retention10/10
Ease of Holding2/10
Utility7/10
Sustainability
-2/10
Overall Score19/50

Coffee Husk Reusable Coffee Cup

A relative newcomer on the reusable coffee cup market! The most popular brand is Huskee who collect wasted husks from coffee farms and repurpose them into beautiful reusable coffee cups. On top of this, they are also designed to be fully recycled once again at the end of their lifespan. This was a very nice cup. The taste was good, although there was a slight reduction in the bitter notes of the coffee. Unfortunately, the coffee went the coldest out of all the coffee cups. It did however rank the best out of ease of holding. The ridged outside of the cup distributes the heat nicely and allows a very comfortable grip. It is a genius design that we were really happy with!

In terms of utility:
Is it microwaveable? Huskee say they have done limited tests on this. They believe it is microwave-safe but do not recommend repeated use in a microwave.
Is it dishwasher-safe? Yes.
Is the drinking hole functional? The liquid spreads out along the rim when tilted (the rim is very wide and leaves a lot of space between the drinking hole and your lips). Due to this design, it leaks slightly when you sip.

 The Huskee cups repurpose a material that otherwise would have been wasted. This is inherently better than using materials that must be created for the purpose of making the cup. It is important to note that the Huskee cup does include polypropylene, which is a form of plastic. They state they feel this is necessary to ensure the long-term survival of their cups and therefore less waste overall. Plastic is still controversial, however, as we have discussed above. At the end of their lifespan Huskee cups are not able to be recycled in mainstream facilities, the company has organised a return service so that they can responsibly dispose of the cups. 

Rating
Taste9/10
Heat Retention2/10
Ease of Holding10/10
Utility5/10
Sustainability
7/10
Overall Score31/50

Recycled Materials Reusable Coffee Cup: 

This is a great solution to our growing waste problem and is becoming increasingly common. We have used Circular&Co, a brand which recycles old takeaway coffee cups (i.e., the kind that usually just go straight into the bin) and turns them into reusable coffee cups. Other brands use things like ocean plastic, newspapers and more.

The taste with this cup was great! Completely pure and tasted the same as the control mug of coffee we had on the side. We couldn’t ask for more. It also kept the coffee pretty hot, ranking second hottest out of all the coffee cups after 20 minutes. It was also easy to hold, keeping the coffee well-insulated without burning your hand on the outside.

In terms of utility:
Is it microwaveable? Big NO. There are metal parts in the lid and so it is a very bad idea to microwave these cups.
Is it dishwasher-safe? Yes.
Is the drinking hole functional? The lid and drinking hole are unusual, but they work! It has a press up and down function to open and close the lid. Press once to pop the lid up and you can drink from any place around the rim, press once again to close it.

This company extends the lifespan of single-use products by giving them a ‘second chance at life’. This is inherently sustainable as, much like using plant-based biproducts like in the Huskee cup, it reduces the amount of overall global waste. Circular&Co. also provides replacement parts for their cups. This means if you lose a part, you can replace it without needing to replace the whole cup further reducing overall waste. The cup itself is designed to be recyclable in mainstream recycling facilities. They acknowledge however that recycling differs globally and locally. For this reason, they also provide a send-back service where you return your coffee cup back to them. If you do they will dispose of it responsibly AND give you a 30% discount code. This company really ticks all the boxes in terms of sustainability.

Rating
Taste10/10
Heat Retention8/10
Ease of Holding8/10
Utility6/10
Sustainability
10/10
Overall Score42/50

Plant-based Reusable Coffee Cup

These coffee cups are made of plant-based materials that are as sustainable as possible, for example bamboo or corn-starch. The cup we have used, made by Ecoffee, is made of mixture of natural ingredients: natural fibre, corn starch and plant-based resin.

There was a very slight impact on the taste of the coffee with this cup. It left your lips feeling slightly dry, with a bit of a grainy aftertaste. It was also second worst at keeping the coffee warm. It went almost completely lukewarm after 20 minutes. On top of this, it was very hot to hold. The coffee cup comes with a rubber ring, but this doesn’t do a great job of stopping the coffee from burning your hand.

In terms of utility:
Is it microwaveable? Yes, but only without the lid on at a maximum of 800W for no longer than 40 second intervals.
Is it dishwasher-safe? Yes.
Is the drinking hole functional? Yes.

A big myth with plant-based products is that they are biodegradable. As Ecoffee says on their website, there is no reusable cup on the market that is 100% biodegradable. EU standard regulations state that a product must biodegrade 90% within six months to be considered ‘biodegradable’ and this is not achievable for long-term consumer durable products. Plant-based is still better than completely plastic-based materials. Ecoffee have partnered with TerraCycle to allow you to send your coffee cup back to them to be repurposed into a new reusable coffee cup.

Rating
Taste6/10
Heat Retention4/10
Ease of Holding4/10
Utility8/10
Sustainability
6/10
Overall Score28/50

So, our clear overall winner is the Circular&Co. recycled materials reusable coffee cup made from recycled single-use coffee cups. What do you think of our ranking?

Overall Summary Table:

Glass Reusable Cup
Plastic Reusable Cup
Coffee Husk Reusable Cup
Recycled Materials Reusable Cup
Plant-based Reusable Cup
Taste5/10 Plasticky taste due to the plastic lid2/10 Very plasticky taste9/10 Good taste with slight reduction of bitter notes10/10 Pure taste exactly like control mug6/10 Slight taste impact and left a dry, grainy taste in the mouth
Heat Retention6/10 Third hottest after 20 minutes10/10 Hottest0/10 Coldest8/10 Second hottest4/10 Second coldest
Ease of Holding6/10 Third easiest to hold2/10 Hardest to hold10/10 Easiest to hold8/10 Second easiest to hold4/10 Second hardest to hold
Utility8/10 Meets majority of requirements with a few restrictions7/10 Meets majority of requirements with several restrictions5/10 Does not meet all the requirements6/10 Does not meet one of the requirements8/10 Meets majority of requirements with a few restrictions
Sustainability
4/10 Glass is recyclable but plastic lid is not guaranteed to be recycled
-2/10 Plastic is not guaranteed to be recycled
7/10 Not 100% recyclable but the company has a return service
10/10 Recyclable and has return system 
6/10 Not recyclable or biodegradable but the company has a return system
Overall Score29/5019/5031/5042/5028/50

Products talked about in the blog post

Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees
Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees
Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees
Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees
Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees
Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees
Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees
Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees
New Kings Coffee - Coffee Selection
Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees
Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees

Selection of our Fairtrade and Organic Coffees

Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala
Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala
Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala
Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala
Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala
Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala
Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala
Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala
Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala
Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala

Medium Roast - Organic - Guatemala

Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia
Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia

Dark Roast - Organic - Sumatra, Indonesia

Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru
Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru

Decaf Roast - Organic - San Ignacio, Peru

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