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.|
|My faux "Brown Betty" looks a bit like this one on Amazon. Not real, but it still makes a nice cuppa.|
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 they could be easily replaced. But what became known as a Brown Betty teapot proved to be durable and superior for brewing, 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 around 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. are just a few.
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!