The Brown Betty teapot is considered by many tea drinkers to be the best teapot design ever created. It may be the special, red clay that is used for making the pot that causes the superior tea, or it could be the unique design of the pot itself. Tea drinkers continue to argue the two sides, as they have for centuries, over steaming cups of Earl Grey steeped in the Brown Betty.
The Original Brown Betty Teapot
The original teapots came from a red clay that was discovered in the Stoke-on-Trent area of Britain, in 1695. This special clay seemed to retain heat better and so found use as the material for the perfect teapot as early as the seventeenth century. These early pots were tall and shaped more like coffee pots than what we consider to be a traditional teapot shape. In the nineteenth century the pots began to take on the more rounded shape of the modern Brown Betty. A company, by the name of Swinton Pottery, developed a rich glaze that was made from iron and manganese. The glaze was brushed on the pot and allowed to run down the sides, creating a streaky finish as it was fired.
These rounded teapots found favor at the court of Queen Victoria, and so into a majority of homes of the time. In the Victorian era, 1837 through 1901, tea was at its peak of popularity and Brown Betty teapots were the creme de la creme of teapot design. With the superior heat retention of the special clay, and the new rounded design, the tea brewed in this pot was deemed to be perfect. The design allowed the tea leaves more freedom to swirl through the water as it was poured into the pot, and released more flavor with less bitterness.
How to Use the Pot
If you have a Brown Betty teapot never make the mistake of using it in a microwave or on top of the stove. Always wash it by hand and store it carefully. The dark color of the pot doesn't show stains, an added benefit to these beautiful pots!
To brew tea:
- Run warm water in the pot to warm it, and pour it out.
- Add one teaspoon of tea per cup. This is strong but it is easier to add a little hot water to weaken the tea for those that prefer it that way.
- Draw fresh, cold water in the kettle and heat it just to the boil. Filtered water is best.
- Bring just to the boil and pour the water carefully into the teapot.
- Steep for three minutes
- Pour the tea through a tea strainer into warmed cups.
The dark color of the Brown Betty doesn't show any staining. Its round, pot-bellied shape causes the leaves to be gently swirled around as boiling water is poured into the pot. Round pots are also the easiest to clean out.
These beautiful teapots are available on the internet, as well as in many stores locally. There are similar pots, but if you want the authentic Brown Betty then it must be handmade in the Old Caledonia Mills in Stoke-on-Trent, and imported from England. Keep this in mind as you look!
You may turn a few up when eBay shopping. Remember, there are numerous pots out there that are made to look like the original but are not. Many come from Japan. If you want to experience the superior tea brewed in this traditional pot then it must come from England.
Take good care of your pot, as you would any old time pottery, and it will last for generations of tea parties.