For years, somewhat canonically, notNeutral's Lino has been considered the absolute best coffee mug around these parts. We stocked it in our office and waxed poetically about it five years ago, calling it the "best damn coffee mug on the planet". The mug is beloved by baristas and coffee snobs the world over, thanks to its comfy ergonomic grip and clever design that retains warmth and encourages latte art.
Recently, notNeutral debuted an entirely new coffee mug design as a follow-up — or as a companion, depending on how you look at it — to the Lino. The notNeutral Pico, named for the major east-west boulevard in Los Angeles, was developed in collaboration with baristas, just like the Lino — and so it shares some of its predecessor's ergonomic and technical features, while also doing some things differently. So to see if the Pico could live up to the potential of the Lino, we tried it out (in the largest size of 12 ounces), complete with the Pico collection's accompanying spoon and saucer.
Here's what we found.
What's Good About the notNeutral Pico Mug
It looks fantastic
I generally like the look of the Lino mug, but it is a bit strange. It's made of shiny porcelain, which is very traditional, but its avant-garde shape — with that dramatic handle stretching out directly from the rim — creates sort of a contradictory design. The Pico, meanwhile, has a much more crowd-pleasing appearance. With its tulip shape, less-extreme handle and bi-color terracotta and matte-glazed finish, it makes for one handsome mug.
One of the design inspirations behind the design was California's strong historical connection to mid-century modernism, and the Pico mug certainly looks like it could have come from that movement. It reminds me of the long-extinct mugs the Beatles use as seen in Disney+'s Get Back docu-series (and which I am rather obsessed with).
It feels nice and comfortable
Although the Pico's handle design is different from that of the Lino, it functions in much the same way. The top of the handle is flat and encourages your thumb to naturally rest on it. There's then room for two fingers to comfortably grip the handle, and the angle of the handle means your two remaining fingers neatly slot in beneath it in a natural way.
The Pico is also a bit lighter than the Lino, and my hand never grew sore or tired, even after holding a mug full of coffee for several minutes. It's clear that notNeutral put a lot of thought into getting the ergonomics of the mug right, and the result is the most comfortable coffee mug I've ever had the pleasure of using.
The accessories make using the mug an experience
In addition to the line of mugs — which come in four sizes and three colors — the Pico collection also includes matching saucers and spoons for an additional charge ($6–$7.50 per saucer and $5.50 for a spoon). Using both of them definitely elevates the overall experience of using the Pico mug, turning it into more of a ritual.
The saucer is pretty, matching the look and feel of the mug with its raw/glazed finish, and it acts as a de facto coaster. The spoon, meanwhile, is adorable. It's fully glazed, nicely weighted and perfectly curved to reach every curve of the mug's interior.
It also "locks in" when you set it on the saucer, a nice design tough that makes the whole setup feel very well-considered. Using the Pico spoon feels far more civilized than your average teaspoon...and using it makes my coffee break feel a touch more special.
What's Not Ideal About the notNeutral Pico Mug
It feels less premium than the Lino
Flip the Pico mug over and you'll see the word "China" printed below notNeutral. Or, you will when the mug is new anyway. After just a couple of washes, the printing on my mug has almost completely disappeared, leading me to question the long-term durability of the rest of the mug. There's nothing inherently wrong with products that are made in China, but I would like some more insight into how the mugs are made, especially given notNeutral's reputation as a sort of Californian artisanal design collective (my words, not theirs).
By comparison, the Lino feels heftier and more likely to last than the Pico. I also own a mug from East Fork Pottery, which I know is made by hand in North Carolina. It's built like a tank and I've never given a second thought to its durability...but it also costs more than twice as much as the Pico at $40, so maybe that's not a fair comparison.
Editor's note: Following the publication of this review, notNeutral reached out to me to inform me that they are addressing the issue of the fading logo on the Pico, as the mugs will now have both the logo and country of origin etched into the bottom on future production runs. Brand Manager Hannah Block explained the fading in an email: "Decal durability is related to firing temperature — because terracotta has a lower firing temp than porcelain, the decals have less staying power than with our Lino cups."
It doesn't retain heat as well as I'd hoped
The Pico boasts a lot of technical features that it delivers on — the glazed lip that delivers perfect sips, the ergonomic grip and the curved interior, which like the Lino, is designed to make latte art easier for baristas. Then there's the mug's tulip shape, which notNeutral says aids in the Pico's heat retention. I haven't really found this to be the case. I drink my coffee pretty quickly, and I've noticed that my coffee in the Pico tends to be cold for my final sip or two. While this is a better performance than my regular mugs — I've never had to reheat my Pico coffee in the microwave, like with a regular mug — it definitely doesn't hold heat as well as heavy-bottom mugs like the Lino or East Fork's The Mug.
notNeutral Pico Mug: The Verdict
So, will the Pico set the coffee world on fire like the Lino did several years ago? Probably not. The Lino is a classic and beloved design, and I think it will continue to be regarded by coffee professionals as their go-to mug. But for those of us who aren't baristas by trade, I think the Pico makes a lot of sense.
It's a beautiful mug, after all, better looking than the Lino — and when paired with its saucer and spoon it makes for a gorgeous and enviable home coffee setup. The heat retention and quality could be a little better, but both are still better than average, especially for the price.
So if you're in the market for a coffee mug, give the notNeutral Pico a try. You'll likely be glad you did.