Brown Betty Teapots
Fall time is here. The leaves are starting to change, the temperature drops in the evening, and the temperature during the day is noticeably cooler. Autumn is a time when I rotate teapots, tea cups, and mugs for my morning Cuppa. This is the story of a teapot that I use in autumn.
A teapot’s story
The commonly shaped teapot sits quietly on the shelf waiting to be picked up, purposed, utilized, and filled with the heavenly scent of tea. Each year its owner pulls it out of the cabinet, off the shelf and requisitions it for months at a time, to hold the intoxicating scents of the beverage. The beverage called tea, comes from all over the world and the little teapot is reminded of a day, long ago and far away, when it first came into being.
The teapot remembers the cool, damp air, the smell of earthy clay, and the rows upon rows of teapots just like them. It was during King William III’s reign in England, at the end of the 17th century, that the first teapot was created. The teapot remembers the town, Stoke-on-Trent, in the countryside of Staffordshire, being mentioned as its origin. A company called Cauldron Ceramics, was the first Stoke-on-Trent potters to make the teapot. The company was emulating the popular red clay teapots that had been brought over from China.
Originally the teapots created in Stoke-on-Trent had no outer glaze covering their round midpoint. The pots were made out of a local red clay that was unearthed in the Bradell Woods area of Stoke-on-Trent. The teapot knew it was created later than the 1600’s, somewhere in the early 20th century; for it had a glaze covering its exterior. The glaze was created from manganese and iron and is referred to as Rockingham glaze.
Brown Betty is the teapot’s formal name. The name Brown was given to the teapot as a nod to the brown colored Rockingham glaze that the teapot is coated in. The name Betty is in reference to Victorian times. At that time, well to do households had servants, usually one of which was called Betty, a shortened version of Elizabeth. Betty would bring the teapot and tea treats to an elaborately set tea table. The name Brown Betty is a blend of two distinct historical details of the teapot.
The teapot recalls being placed in a box, inside another box, and shipped probably in the early 20th century to a place called the United States. It found itself one day in the middle of the United States, in the middle of a city, and in the middle of a restaurant. It was a busy day for the restaurant and the teapot was employed at table after table. It brought varying kinds of teas to lunch guests without having a fabric cozy placed on top of it. The teapot held its heat because of the English clay that it was made out of. Comments were made regarding how wonderfully the teapot held its heat, how marvelously the teapot kept the tea hot, and what a unique rounded shape that the teapot had in its middle.
Somewhere between England, and the many moves to the new location in the middle of the United States, the teapot’s lid broke. Luckily, there was a brown teapot lid that was similar in color and was an almost exact fit that someone found and placed on top of the teapot. The new lid worked superbly. It didn’t have the round, domed shaped lid, or the ball shaped knob on the top of the lid, but the lid was still able to keep the steam from escaping, enabling the tea to retain heat.
One day the restaurant that the teapot was employed at closed down. The teapot was given a new life at a home. It was surrounded by other teapots, cups and mugs. The teapot was one of a collection of cherished teapots and used when the weather turns colder because it is exceptional in retaining the heat of the tea.
I like to herald in new seasons with colored mugs and teapots that match the seasons. I have been blessed to be gifted with various teapots and teacups and mugs. When I wake up in the morning and see the little teapot through half opened eyes, it’s color reminds me that Fall has arrived. The Brown Betty teapots do, in fact, hold the temperature of the tea well. The roundness of the middle of the pot and the clay that is still used today are the reasons this teapot holds heat for long lengths of time.
I took creative license in telling the story of the teapot. I don’t know the history of the teapot prior to acquiring it from a restaurant that had closed its doors. I do believe it is an original Brown Betty teapot made in the mid 20th century. The original teapots are stamped on the bottom with Stoke-on-Trent, are made of clay indigenous to the Staffordshire region, have a red clay ring visible on the bottom of the teapot, and are an earthy brown color.
Teapots are meant to be used. Don’t be afraid to use a teapot, cup, or mug for fear of breakage. Life is too short to stock pile tea items and yet, never use them. Have fun rotating around your tea equipage and tea accoutrements. Enjoy the rich cultural heritage, and history that tea pieces bring to the tea table.
About The Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!