Teacups did not always have handles. Chinese tea bowls influenced the first European teacups. At first, the English made cups without handles in the traditional Chinese style. Not until the mid 1750's was a handle added to prevent ladies from burning their fingers. In Victorian times in England, the tea was sometimes poured into the saucer to cool it before sipping, this was considered perfectly acceptable. This is what writers of that period meant by "a dish of tea."