It is fun to review high end products. The have sizzle. They have glamour, but what they do not have going for them is economy, of course. In fact they often do not perform any better than their lower priced brethren. With espresso machines that is sort of true. I would far rather have a drink made by someone with the talent of James Hoffman on a Quickmill Anita combined with a Baratza Vario than a drink made by someone with my talent level or below on a Mazzer Robur combined with a Speedster. That is assuming they have comparable level coffee to use since no equipment can make bad coffee good.
On the other hand it is not true that the more expensive gear there is nothing added to the equation. The Robur is a great grinder that is easier to dial in than the Vario and it will last forever. The Speedster is supposed to be an amazing machine (I have seen them, but have never used one so I cannot from my own experience say that it is in fact better than cheaper machines, but I do feel confident that in the hands of an expert it can do some things that even most machines over a thousand dollars cannot do). But the difference becomes very small. I do not think I could tell the difference between a BMW and a car that cost twice as much even though I am sure there are differences that dictate all that extra money. (Hey I am not even sure I can tell the difference between a Mazda and a BMW without looking at the insignia since I am not a car guy).
All that is to say, though that one place where you can get nice tools at low prices is cups. I love good thick walled ceramic cups. When I was living in Europe I often went to a high end coffee bar that used cups that cost them one Euro that were made by Inker. They were great and showed off the coffee beautifully. He just bought basic white cups the thick walls and smooth surface that together with the well designed handle made for a very pleasant drinking experience. ACF is another brand that makes good simple cups. In the US the Inker cups, of course, cost a little more since you have to ship them across the ocean. Inker is made in Croatia and you can find them at Orphan Espresso among other places. According to the following link the Elektra cups on Roaste.com are from Inker, (although those cups are not cheap).http://www.home-barista.com/advice/anyone-know-where-i-can-get-these-cups-t11598.html
I equally love my Nuova Point cappuccino cups a friend gave me. They came from a famous roaster, but I’d like them at least as much if they just were a solid color (including white). Saving the print costs should make them a good buy, too!
I guess the point for me is that a simple shape, a smooth glaze, and an aesthetically pleasing handle on a thick porcelain cup is enough to be fairly certain that I am a happy guy. After that it is more about style than anything else.
(Having said that I will also soon post a review of some hand made cups I got as a gift that I also love and that are not cheap).