I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Brown Betty

I love my Brown Betty teapot! Brown Betties are known the world over as excellent for tea-brewing, thanks to their rounded shape (which allows tea leaves to swirl, creating a more even infusion) and their make-up of red clay (which retains heat well). They've been a staple in English homes since Victorian times, and as an icon to British people, they haven't changed since.
Brown Betties are a great price, too! This one is $23.99 on ebay.
Alas, mine isn't an authentic Brown Betty. While it's serviceable, cute, and a pretty shade of maroonish-red--rather than the typical brown--it's a knockoff...I had no idea until recently, when I learned the history of the Brown Betty.
My faux "Brown Betty" looks a bit like this one on Amazon. Not real, but it still makes a nice cuppa.
England's Midlands have been called "the Potteries" since the Middle Ages, since the resources used to make pottery occur in abundance here. Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, and Spode are some famous Staffordshire companies.

Tea drinking became popular in England before 1800, to the point where poorer folks purchased used tea leaves and/or tea leaves mixed with other, less savory, ingredients (including animal dung). While the upper class served tea in bone china, regular people used clay tea pots.

Most of the time, these pots were intended to be used for a while before they inevitably broke, and then could be replaced. But what became known as a Brown Betty teapot proved durable and superior at brewing tea, and many became heirlooms.

There is no single Brown Betty teapot; it's not a brand. Rather, a Brown Betty is a type of teapot, but they all bear certain things in common.

  • The teapots must be crafted in Staffordshire, England, from the red clay discovered there in 1695.
  • They are round in shape, although very early teapots from Staffordshire red clay looked more like coffee pots.
  • The teapots are glazed with manganese, or Rockingham glaze. They are a soft lavender color until the second firing, when they turn their famous shade of brown (a little like Hershey's chocolate syrup).
Although it looks black int he picture, this pot on Amazon is labeled as being crafted by Cauldon, and is therefore authentic.
A few companies still make Brown Betties, Adderley Ceramics Ltd. and Cauldon Ceramic Ltd.

Is your teapot a Brown Betty? Whether it's Adderley, Cauldon, or from another manufacturer, it's easy to tell. Flip it over. On the bottom, there should be an unglazed ring of tell-tale red clay, and it should say "Made in England".

Same Adderley pot from the top of the post, on ebay

One more word on caring for your Brown Betty: don't put it in the microwave or on a hot stove. And to clean, just rinse well. That's one benefit of the classic brown glaze: it won't show tea stains!

1 comment:

Karen Lange said...

How interesting! I had no idea of their purpose and rich history. I have a white teapot that is not a Brown Betty (obviously, lol). I will have to pay better attention when I come across teapots. Thanks so much for the info. Hope you have a tea filled and happy birthday! :)