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Monday, October 19, 2015

Hey, 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 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).
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".

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!

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Susanne Dietze will have a nice cuppa today and hopes you'll join her. Her Faux Betty is brewing a blend of tea called "Paris" which is Earl Grey infused with vanilla. Susanne is the author of four contracted novellas. You can visit her on her website at www.susannedietze.com.

8 comments:

  1. Okay, Susie, now I want to try the Paris tea. It sounds lovely. As for the tea pot, I've never heard of this particular one. I enjoyed reading the fascinating history.

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    1. Come on down and have tea with me, Suzie! :) The Paris blend is really nice. I bought it at a tea house in San Diego.

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  2. Such a cute teapot! I want one. Sadly, I don't drink tea. Thank you for sharing about Brown Bettys. I need to put one in a story

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    1. Gina, you can do so many things with teapots other than brewing tea. I have a pinterest board called "backyard" with lots of non-teapot things, but I've pinned teapot bird houses and flowerpots. Brown Betties are so cute!

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  3. Obviously I am not a "true" tea lover. I can't imagine why to use a teapot when a microwave is so much easier. LOL.

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    1. The taste, Dina! The taste! There's something about loose leaf tea brewed in china/stoneware that truly tastes so much better than a teabag! The quality of tea tends to be better, too. Depending on what you buy. But that's ok. We can still be friends and you can have a tea sandwich. Here you go.

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  4. Susie, we drink a lot of tea here at home, but I never knew about the Brown Betty. Mom used a variety of tea pots, all similar to the ones you're showing, but the reason she had so many was because she kept chipping the spout or breaking the lid. Not Brown Betty quality I'm assuming.

    When I first married, I bought a clear glass Pyrex teapot so that I could see the strength of the tea by colour. And 38 yrs later, I'm still using it, albeit with a small chip in the lid that somehow happened about 5 yrs ago. :(

    My kids love using tea leaves. Seventeen-year-old JJ's current favourite is Birthday Cake tea complete with sprinkles which he picked up while on a school Band trip in Banff, Alberta. Jessica brought home a pkg of Scottish tea leaves when she visited that country. And Crystal introduced me to both chai and rooibos.

    Thanks for the info, Susie. Great post.

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  5. Oh, so cute! Want!

    I almost never drink tea hot, though it can be nice when it's cold outside (if ever), but these teapots are SO darling, I must have one.

    It can sit on my stovetop and gather dust. :D

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