The Brown Betty teapot is considered the quintessential British collectible teapot. It may be the special red clay that is used for making the pot that causes the superior tea, or it could be the simple design of the pot itself. Whether you're looking for the best teapot on the market, or hope to collect a piece of British history, you'll first want to learn everything you can about the Brown Betty.
Brown Betty Teapot History
Brown Betty teapots aren't necessarily unique in their look, they are actually very simple by design. The Brown Betty is not a brand of teapot, but rather a design style. Throughout history there have been many Brown Betty teapot potters.
The Original Brown Betty Teapot
The origins of the iconic Brown Betty teapot have yet to be definitively discovered. There is no credited inventor of the Brown Betty, and there are different versions of the pot found throughout history. Early manufacturers Alcock, Lindley, and Bloore are credited with solidifying the unique features associated with a Brown Betty today. In the late 1600s, brothers David and John Philip Elers started to create some of the first redware teapots in Staffordshire, England.
Brown Betty Teapot Manufacturing
Cauldon Ceramics, which was started by the former owner of Caledonia Pottery, is the oldest remaining maker of Brown Betty teapots, although many others manufacture them too. Cauldon is a small company in Staffordshire that employs eight people who make about 150 Brown Betty teapots per day. They use the classic red Etruria Marl clay to make the teapots. 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.
Brown Betty Teapot Features
Brown Betty teapots have a few distinguishing features, despite their simple design, that can help you identify them.
- They are made from a special red clay found only in Staffordshire.
- They are made exclusively in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
- The teapot is in a globe shape because that's been found to be best for infusing loose leaf tea.
- The special handle design keeps your knuckles from burning on the globe while holding the teapot.
- The Rockingham glaze is a brownish color that helps hide tea stains and make the pot last longer.
- A real Brown Betty teapot will say "Made in England" on the base.
How to Make Tea With a Brown Betty Teapot
Learning how to make tea in your Brown Betty teapot is simple. Unlike many modern teapots, you don't heat a brown betty in the microwave or on top of the stove. To brew tea:
- Run warm water in the pot, then dump it out.
- Add one teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup of tea you're making.
- Draw fresh, cold water in the kettle and heat it just to the boil. Filtered water is best.
- Pour the just boiling water carefully over the tea leaves in the teapot.
- Fill only up to where it won't overflow when the lid is place on.
- Steep for two to five minutes, depending on the type.
- Warm your cups by rinsing them with warm water.
- Pour the tea through a tea strainer into warmed cups.
Brown Betty Teapot Care and Cleaning
Caring for your Brown Betty teapot is simple. The main thing to remember is you should only use warm water to wash it and you should let it air dry. They are not dishwasher safe, so it's recommended that you simply rinse them with warm water and put them upside-down in the dish drainer to dry. Keep your clean, dry pot stored somewhere it won't get bumped or broken.
Brown Betty Teapot FAQ
Because Brown Betty teapots were and are made by multiple manufacturers, a lot of questions about them are hard to answer.
How to Tell if Your Brown Betty Teapot Is Authentic
- Look on the bottom of the teapot, you should see "Made in England," "Original," and the name of a known Brown Betty manufacturer like "Caledonia Pottery" in the actual pottery.
- The base of the teapot should have an unglazed ring.
- It must be made of Euturia red clay from the Stoke-on-Trent region, which you can see on the unglazed bottom ring.
- It is handmade. Early versions were pieced together, but vintage and modern versions are handmade with a mold.
- Newer Brown Betty teapots come packaged with materials describing the heritage.
- Newer Brown Betty teapots come with a Union Jack sticker on the outside of the body.
Are Brown Betty Teapots Lead Free?
Cauldon Ceramics shares that genuine Brown Betty teapots are always lead-free. They don't use any harmful chemicals or substances when making these teapots.
What Sizes Do Brown Betty Teapots Come In?
Old and new Brown Betty Teapots come in a variety of sizes. You can find 2-cup, 4-cup, 6-cup, and 8-cup Brown Betty teapots. However, each actually holds more cups that the name suggests. For example, a 2-cup Brown Betty holds 22 ounces of liquid, which is almost three cups.
Brown Betty Teapot Buying Guide
While Brown Betty teapots have been made since at least the 1600s, you're likely only going to find vintage pots from the 1940s and 1950s or new pots.
Buying Antique Brown Betty Teapots
When looking for antique Brown Betty teapots, look for the classic design features and a pot that was made in England. Since Brown Betty teapots require a unique red clay, they come specifically from Stoke-on-Trent.
- There were many redware teapots made in Japan before the Brown Betty was first made, so make sure you're not getting something made in Japan.
- You can find a variety of vintage Brown Betty teapots from different makers on eBay for about $15-$40.
- Some sellers on Etsy have vintage Brown Betty teapots available for about $20-$50.
- The manufacturer name on the bottom should be recognizable as from the Stroke-on-Trent area like Sadler or Alcock, Lindley & Bloore.
Buying New Brown Betty Teapots
New Brown Betty teapots are still being handmade today in Staffordshire using the same red clay mines used hundreds of years ago. If you purchase an authentic one now, it can become a family heirloom for years to come. Consider keeping the original packaging.
- Cauldon Ceramics exclusively makes Brown Betty teapots and accessories. The company was started by the former owner of Caledonia Pottery after he sold Caledonia.
- You can find newer Brown Betty teapots in the traditional color or in cobalt blue at English Tea Store.
- English-Teapots.com sells authentic Brown Betty teapots made by Caledonia Potter and Adderly Ceramics.
Get to Know Your Brown Betty
Take good care of your pot, as you would any old time pottery, and it will last for generations of tea parties. While these vintage teapots aren't worth millions of dollars, they are useful and beautiful.