Posts Tagged ‘brown betty teapots’

The Brown Betty Teapot Controversy

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Is Original or Replica the Best Buy?

The Brown Betty teapot receives somewhat mixed reviews today, at least the more recently made teapots.  Originally, when first made, the Brown Betty was considered the queen of teapots. Made from red clay found at Stoke-on-Trent in Britain in the early 1700’s, the first Brown Betty teapots were tall and regal.  Later, during the Victorian era of the nineteenth century the shape of the teapot changed to what it is today–rounded.  After this reincarnation the teapot was considered the ultimate for brewing tea in. Sources say that the popularity stemmed from the fact that tea, brewed in them, tasted better than that brewed in other teapots. While arguments are ongoing till today as to why that is, my theory is that it could be because of the clay they were made from. Other enthusiasts believe it is because of the round shape of the teapot, the tea leaves mixed more with the water while brewing thus releasing more flavor, an idea which also has merit.

In studying more about clay teapots in recent years I have come to learn that Chinese tea pots are also considered superior depending on the type of clay they are made from. Clay is a very porous substance and as such it readily absorbs flavors. Thus it does stand to reason that tea brewed over and again in a Brown Betty teapot could well be enhanced because of this same reason–the porous clay making each pot of tea taste better than the one before.

The teapot, as it is known today, was round and glazed with a deep chocolate colored glaze made from manganese and iron, known as the Rockingham Brown glaze. It apparently was a favorite at court during the time of Queen Victoria and as such soon became the most fashionable teapot. Soon the teapot became known as the Brown Betty and thus it has been known as ever since.

It is unclear to me exactly who produced these teapots originally, as accounts of Brown Betty teapot history are a bit sketchy at best . Apparently now, however, they are made exclusively in England by Cauldon Ceramics, though similar style teapots are made by other manufacturers and there are also plenty of replicas made in Japan and China. The ‘made in China’ teapots seem to have quite a bad reputation, although funnily enough the Chinese made the first teapots and their craftsmanship when it comes to making the smaller Chinese teapots such as the Yixing teapot, is superb. YiXing teapots, as well as many other fine teapots made in China or Taiwan, are some of the most well crafted teapots you can find. (It is used mainly for brewing full leaf green and wulong tea.)  They are clay teapots of exceptional quality.

From reading recent Brown Betty teapot reviews it also appears that the Brown Betty teapots for sale that are made by Cauldon Ceramics are also somewhat questionable in quality, with quite a few people reporting cracked glazing.  The modern variations of these formerly fine English teapots are also nowhere near as heavy as the original or even earlier English tea pots, apparently because the clay itself is quite a bit thinner.  Some people have had problems with the Brown Betty teapot lid being flawed, although if you ask you can apparently usually get a Brown Betty teapot replacement lid. Other report problems with a dripping spout. If you want to buy an original Brown Betty tea pot made in England it is recommended that you look for the ‘Cauldon’ markings on the bottom of the clay pot. They also have a Union Jack sticker to prove that it is indeed an original Brown Betty teapot made in England.

These days the teapots are sold in various sizes including the 8 cup Brown Betty teapot, the 6 cup Brown Betty teapot and the Brown Betty teapot 2 cup version. Incidentally, traditionally a tea cup is 6 ounces, thus a four cup Brown Betty would make around 24 ounces of tea. That is important to remember, as many people drink tea in larger cups or mugs these days and if that is the case you would need to buy a larger teapot.

Of course if you are able to find a supplier of antique Brown Betty teapots it would be probably worth getting, if you could afford it. When it comes to Brown Betty teapots authentic and original do not necessarily mean the best unfortunately, as far as those made in more recent times.  However, the antiques are sturdy and providing you can find one that is still in good condition, should last a long time. Of course, it is quite difficult to use anything that is antique thus even if you find one you may decide that it should stay on display in your kitchen or dining room cabinet.

This may be heresy to all of those anti ‘made in China’ teapot lovers, however you can find replicas of these teapots made in China, Japan and even Malaysia which apparently are well made, sturdy, thick and thus easily able to keep the tea warm for quite some time. They are also considerably cheaper than the original ‘Made in the UK’ teapots. I am not recommending that you buy these, but merely suggesting that in light of current Brown Betty reviews buying the original from England may not provide you with a teapot that is of any better quality!