Dear Alice,

Can you tell me why the heck coffee in Japan is so often served with the cup turned the “wrong” way on the saucer, which is to say with the handle on the left? This forces the right-handed customer to turn the cup 180 degrees in order to pick it up. The fancier the place, the more likely coffee is served this way, but I’ve experienced it even in cheap shops, and always with the spoon in front. Could this positioning be the influence of tea-ceremony practices, where you are supposed to turn the cup before drinking? Or is it copying a foreign custom that I don’t know? In my country, Germany, coffee is served with the spoon at the back and the cup handle turned to the right.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.