Designed to help consumers drink on the go, coffee cups with lids have become part of our daily lives. But while we take these functional, everyday objects for granted, they’ve undergone significant changes over time. Some of these changes were driven by safety concerns, while others have aimed to enhance the consumer experience.
Historically, cup lids were simple disks made of paper or plastic that snapped onto the rim of the cup. These were intended to prevent spilling while the consumer sipped their beverage on the move, a task that could be difficult if the drink was frothy. To address these issues, some manufacturers designed a lid with a slight protrusion, allowing the user to place their lips around it without hitting them against the side of the cup.
More recently, many designers and manufacturers have been focused on taking the lid beyond its traditional function. One popular innovation is a sliding valve, which allows steam to escape while equalising pressure in the container. Another is a sleeve that can be inserted into the opening, to cover the drinking port and help prevent coffee splashing out of the cup.
Lids have also been engineered to improve ergonomics and ease of use. Some have a small protrusion that helps to grip the cup, while other designs are more rounded, which is less likely to cause discomfort. These lids also often feature small holes that allow air to pass through, reducing the chances of hot coffee burning the lips or fingers.
Another major focus of modern cup lids is sustainability, with manufacturers increasingly aiming to minimise the impact of these disposable products. For example, some lids are now made from a biodegradable material, such as fibre from bagasse or wood, that’s 100% free from single-use plastic. Then there’s the option of a push-button design that doesn’t require an open/close switch, allowing the user to control their drink’s flow with a simple press.
As the outbreak of Covid-19 continues to raise concerns about food safety, some experts predict that future coffee cup lids will also include sanitary features to protect customers from contamination. For example, one patented design by Bill Levey involves a sabar that covers the lid’s mouthpiece and reduces the chance of contaminated fingers touching the cup surface.
Whether you’re commuting to work or out for a hike, a travel mug is a great way to take your coffee on the go. However, with so many options available, how do you choose the best one for you? To help, we’ve put together a guide on the best travel coffee mugs on the market, based on editor-tested insights and our own research.