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A Zarf Is Used To Hold?

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An example of a coffee cup sleeve, called a zarf.
Nirzar/Wikimedia

Answer: Coffee Cups

You know that little cardboard sleeve you nest your coffee cup in to insulate your hand from the heat of the coffee? Not only does that little sleeve have a fancy name, it has a pretty fancy history too.

The sleeve, formally known as a zarf, is the descendant of ornamental coffee cup holders that date all the way back to the thirteenth century. Just like tea in Japan and China was served in cups without handles, coffee was served in small porcelain, glass, or wooden cups in Turkey and the surrounding regions.

These cups were known as fincan and, to protect the users’ hands, they were nested inside zarfs (a word derived from Arabic, meaning “container or envelope”). These zarfs were typically metal, heavily ornamented, and an integral part of early coffee culture that lives on today, albeit in a much simpler and disposable form, in the sleeves we clad our coffee cups in.