From ditching plastic straws to reusing carrier bags, there are plenty of small things we can all do to help protect the planet from the climate emergency and reduce our personal carbon footprints.
Currently, only around one per cent of paper coffee cups are recycled, but the number of us choosing to buy reusable cups instead – some of which, in a decidedly meta move, are actually made of recycled coffee cups – is soaring.
These cups come in all shapes, sizes and materials, from those made of bamboo or biodegradable materials, to ceramic models ideal for gifting, and even temperature-controlled cups connectable to a dedicated app.
Whichever you choose, it should be portable, well-insulated and, ideally, look good too. Being leakproof is also important, although all mugs require you to allow your drink to cool down slightly before putting on the lid, otherwise a build-up of steam can cause spurting.
Whatever you do, don’t turn a travel mug filled with boiling hot water upside-down, no matter how secure it is.
We considered all these criteria when testing, and we made sure they were fairly priced and not too fiddly to drink from, too. After rigorous trials, these were the cups we decided were the best of the bunch.
For more on coffee, we’ve rounded up the best pod machines, cafetières, coffee grinders and reusable coffee cups, too. Also, check out our guide to all coffee machine types in this best coffee machines review.
The best travel cups to buy
Kambukka ETNA thermal travel cup
Best all-round travel cup
Pros: good looks, great insulating
Cons: pricey, can be fiddly to open
Star rating: 5/5
Available in a range of colours and designs, this playful travel cup has a lot going for it. Compact and lightweight, its insulation properties are among the best we tested, keeping drinks hot for 11 hours, while the outside remains completely cool to the touch.
Easy to grip with a rubber bottom for sturdiness, it opens using a child-lock style system. Set it to drinking mode, and the easy-pouring spout will stay open.
Set to unlock, and the spout opens one-handed, using a push-button on the back of the cup. And when the push-button is locked, the Kambukka cup will stay shut, with no leaks, making it completely transportable.
The cup itself has to be washed by hand, but the lid can be popped into the dishwasher, and thanks to a technology called ‘Snapclean,’ the mechanism is easily disassembled into two pieces for thorough cleaning.
There’s also the option to buy a spare water bottle lid for use with cold drinks.
Although this model is pricey, starting at around £20, it’s built to last, and Kambukka has clearly put in the legwork to find out what customers want to make their product a pleasure to use.
Contigo West Loop tumbler
Best travel cup for long journeys
Pros: extra secure, good capacity, sleek looks
Cons: tricky to wash
Star rating: 5/5
A close second as our overall favourite, this larger tumbler holds 470ml of liquid, while still being relatively lightweight. The drinking mechanism is the best we tested, and completely leakproof – providing, as with all these mugs, you allow steam to disperse for a few minutes before screwing the lid on.
Autoseal technology allows for easy, one-handed opening by pushing a button on the back of the cup, while a locking switch prevents the button from being depressed in a bag or pocket, making it simple to use and secure when on the move.
The Contigo is good looking, too, coming in 11 metallic colours in stainless steel, with an easy grip, and a design which will fit most cup holders. The body has to be washed by hand and is quite narrow, so you’ll need to invest in a bottle cleaner, but the lid can be put in the dishwasher.
Insulation is above average too, with drinks staying hot for five hours, and keeping them cold for 12. If you’re a fan of outdoor pursuits or have an extra-long commute, this is a great option.
Klean Kanteen Insulated TK Wide
Best travel cup for insulation
Pros: lightweight, no transferred flavour, keeps drinks hot for 11 hours
Cons: relatively expensive, fiddly to clean
Star rating: 4.5/5
This cup means business: with a matt surface for easy gripping, it comes in five sizes (from 355ml up to 1900ml), and up to 11 colours, depending on which size you choose. The lid is easy to screw on and doesn’t allow any liquid to escape, which means it’s essential to allow your drink to cool down for a few minutes before closing, to avoid a build-up of steam.
Made of stainless steel, it’s lightweight and good-looking, won’t rust, and won’t impart weird flavours to your drink. Most impressively, thanks to vacuum insulation, hot drinks are still hot (or at least drinkably warm) after 11 hours.
Drinks are sipped via a lid which twists to reveal a spout which is comfy to drink from, although with great insulation comes great responsibility – to clean the lid properly, it needs to be dismantled into six parts before being popped in the dishwasher. There’s also a carrying handle, although the outside stays completely cool, meaning there’s no chance of getting your fingers burnt. A solid long-term investment.
Best travel cup for spill-free sipping
Pros: good-looking, hard to knock over
Cons: heavy, not completely leakproof
Star rating: 4/5
This miraculous mug is designed to withstand light bumps and knocks without tipping over – a godsend for the clumsy among us.
For this magic to work, we expected it to sucker itself to flat surfaces, making it tricky to pick up, but how it works is still a mystery to us – despite being impressively resistant to knocks, it’s also effortless to lift.
As well as this unusual USP, the mug is aesthetically pleasing and nice to hold, although it’s also relatively heavy thanks to the non-spill mechanism.
The screw lid has an easy-to-lift flap for comfortable drinking, although it’s not completely leakproof – this one is best for carrying in your hand, rather than in a bag.
Although insulation isn’t its strong point, hot drinks are still drinkable after an hour, and it’s BPA-free, can be washed in the top-rack of your dishwasher and is designed to fit in car cup holders. But even without those benefits, we’d love this for the peace of mind it offers alone.
Tefal travel mug
Best cup for drinking on the go
Pros: lightweight, fits pod machines
Cons: slightly tricky to drink from
Star rating: 4.5/5
This travel mug has a lot going for it: the rubberised outer is completely cool to touch and easy to grip, the base is non-slip, and it comes in three sizes: 200ml, 360ml and 500ml.
The smallest of these, which is the one we tested, is ideal for owners of pod-style coffee machines, as this cup fits perfectly.
As well as being very lightweight and dishwasher-safe, the stainless steel vacuum insulation is effective, keeping coffee hot all the way through your commute.
The main downside, however, is also the cup’s USP: it has a ‘360° drinking edge’, which means you can drink from any angle with the lid still on when you swivel the top open.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit tricky, and requires practise to avoid dribbles – although an upside is that a wider-than-average rim means this is a travel mug that’s biscuit-dunking friendly. Despite small flaws, this is a good-looking, great-value cup, and its upsides make it a winner.
Typhoon double-walled wheat fibre/bamboo mug
Best value travel cup
Pros: very light, great price
Cons: tricky to screw closed, not suitable for bags
Star rating: 4.5/5
At around £10, this mug is great value, looks good, and is eco-friendly too – available in both wheat fibre and bamboo versions, with a swimming pool or leafy pattern. It’s made from compostable materials and offers double-walled insulation to prevent your fingers getting burnt.
After an hour, drinks are still hot, and the matt texture makes it easy to hold. A drinking spout is accessed by lifting a closure which doubles as a carrying handle – but although when fully closed this mug is leakproof, there’s a knack to screwing the lid on so it pays to be careful.
Although it’s hand-wash only, cleaning is easy, it’s lightweight, and holds a proper amount of coffee. Overall, this is an excellent all-rounder at a great price point.
Eva Solo Urban to go cup
Best travel cup for style
Pros: lovely to look at, good insulation
Cons: expensive, fiddly to open
Star rating: 4/5
A winner of a Red Dot Award in 2018, and a German Design Award winner in 2020, the sleek design of this cup makes it a joy to use, but at £30 for a 350ml cup, good looks don’t come cheap.
Mid-weight, with a brushed-steel exterior and a range of lid colourways available, the lid has a click-open flip-top designed to be opened with one hand.
In practise, it’s a bit fiddly to use, although once open, the spout is comfortable to drink from. The lid, being sleekly set into the base, is also a bit difficult to unscrew – but if you’re of a mind that beauty equals pain, it’s worth the hassle.
In terms of insulation, it’s a winner, with the outside staying cool while your drink remains piping hot, and no strange flavours are transferred from the cup’s materials. It’s also dishwasher-safe, which is handy, as it’s a bit too narrow to fit a hand inside for cleaning.
Chi Chi Moi personalised eco travel mug and cosy
Best travel cup for gifting
Pros: looks good, lightweight
Cons: not completely leakproof, pricey
Star rating: 4/5
A basic travel mug is given a bit of extra va-va-voom with the addition of a cute, hand-knitted cosy, which can be personalised with a name or slogan of your choice.
Both mugs and cosies come in four choices of colour, and the cosy includes a little pocket for slipping notes into – making this a lovely choice for gifting.
The mug itself is fairly basic, with average insulation (drinks are still hot, although not pipingly so, after an hour), and drip-proof without being completely leakproof, although it’s fine for carrying in your hand.
Although the outside gets hot, the cosy will effectively protect your mitts from getting burnt.
The mug is made from sustainable bamboo fibre with a silicone lid, adding to its eco credentials, while the cosy is 100 per cent wool, which means it needs to be hand-washed in lukewarm water. Overall, this is a pretty mug that offers something a bit different.
Ember temperature control travel mug 2
Best travel cup for coffee enthusiasts
Pros: sleek, keeps drinks at a constant temperature
Cons: short battery life, very expensive
Star rating: 4/5
At a fraction under £180, this eye-wateringly expensive mug would make an ideal (generous) gift for serious coffee enthusiasts or tech geeks.
After being charged via an electronic coaster which plugs into the mains, the Ember mug will keep your coffee at a constant temperature, which is displayed electronically on the side of the mug, for the duration of its three-hour battery life – or longer, if you keep it charging on the coaster.
The mug connects to its own app, although we experienced a little difficulty – while the app says connection is made via bluetooth by pressing the Ember logo on the mug, you actually have to press the power button on the bottom.
The app can be used to adjust the temperature of your drink, display your name on the side of the mug, and check its battery life.
Once our coffee had cooled down to the 60C setting we chose, it stayed piping hot for three hours, and remained hot for a fair while after the battery had run out, too.
The mug is also comfortable to use – it looks sleek, with the display appearing as if by magic on the side, it’s nice to hold, not too heavy despite the gadgetry, and offers 360° drinking via a button set into the leakproof lid.
Overall, although you need deep pockets to buy this mug, it does its job seamlessly, even though other mugs with superior insulation will actually keep your drink hot for longer.
WAKEcup personalised reusable sustainable bamboo coffee cup
Best travel cup for giving something back
Pros: lightweight, recyclable
Cons: insulation not fantastic, pricey
Star rating: 4/5
As well as being personalisable (for an extra £5) and made of sustainably sourced bamboo, 10 per cent of the profits from this travel cup go to the Marine Conservation Society, for an extra-warm do-gooder glow.
Although it has a generous capacity, this mug is impressively lightweight, with a flip-top lid that’s exceptionally easy to open, but still manages to be leakproof.
Even more impressively, the mug itself is recyclable, making it a genuinely eco-friendly choice.
The downsides include average insulation, despite a double-walled stainless steel interior, which means although your fingers won’t get burnt, your drink won’t stay piping hot for very long. The spout is also a bit fiddly to drink from – beware of spills.
But if you’re looking for a truly eco alternative with a charitable edge, you could do a lot worse.
How we tested coffee cups
We tested a representative sample of reusable coffee cups and scored them against the following criteria:
Volume/capacity: we made sure each cup held a generous cup of coffee.
Weight: with so many different insulating materials on offer, the cups varied from super-light to fairly weighty. Bearing in mind the ‘travel’ element of our round-up, we looked at a good balance between practicality and pleasing design and weight.
Insulating properties: to make sure each cup could keep coffee hot for a reasonable amount of time, we checked coffee temperature after an hour, and tested any claims of long-lasting insulation.
Aesthetics: if you’re going to help save the planet, you might as well do it in style, so we looked for cups with above-average looks. Useful or fun additional features such as personalisation and clever buttons to seal in liquid were also taken into consideration.
No leaks: every cup was put through our ‘leak test’, checking to see how water-tight they were. Although a little leaking didn’t mean instant disqualification, we made sure to mention it in our review.
Ease of cleaning: old milk can leave quite a lingering smell inside your coffee cup so rigorous cleaning is essential. We checked for dishwasher-safe cups or those that could be easily cleaned by hand.
How we tested: we filled each cup with coffee and checked against each of the testing criteria.
Which coffee cup should I buy?
The options are endless, so it really does come down to your lifestyle. If you’re always on the move, you may prefer something light and compact. Or perhaps you like to enjoy your coffee over a longer period of time, meaning insulation is key. There is no right or wrong type of cup to buy, but try to make sure you get one that is BPA-free – and one that doesn’t leak.
This review was last updated in June 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Have you stumbled across an amazing coffee cup? Leave a comment below…