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A saucer is a type of small dishware. While in the Middle Ages a saucer was used for serving condiments and sauces, currently the term is used to denote a small plate or shallow bowl that supports a cup – usually one used to serve coffee or tea (see teacup). The center of the saucer often contains a depression sized to fit a mating cup; this depression is sometimes raised, and antique saucers may omit it altogether. The saucer is useful for protecting surfaces from possible damage due to the heat of a cup, and to catch overflow, splashes, and drips from the cup, thus protecting both table linen and the user sitting in a free-standing chair who holds both cup and saucer. The saucer also provides a convenient place for a damp spoon, as might be used to stir the drink in the cup in order to mix sweeteners or creamers into tea or coffee. Some people pour the hot tea or coffee from the cup into the saucer; the increased surface area of the liquid exposed to the air increases the rate at which it cools, allowing the drinker to consume the beverage quickly after preparation. Some animals, including cats, may also be fed from bowl-shaped saucers.
Although often part of a place setting in a dinner set, teacups with unique styling are often sold with matching saucers, sometimes alone, or as part of a tea set, including a teapot and small dessert plates. A set of four is typical for a tea set. The beverage may be cooled slightly by the surface area in contact with the air. However, the bulk of the cooling will be done by the even greater surface area that is in contact with the saucer. The saucer acts as a heat sink. Air does not transfer heat well.
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