Sunday, March 3, 2013

What is a "Brown Betty?"

Notice the teapot in the Downton Abbey picture.  After getting interested in tea, I began asking friends that drank tea quite a few questions. One of my tea-drinking friends mentioned the English make their tea in a brown betty and that she has one she bought in London.

So I learned what a brown betty teapot was. I had seen them but did not know they had a particular name or anything about their history. The reference below is from Wikipedia.

Sadler "Brown Betty" teapots
A Brown Betty is a type of teapot, round and with a manganese brown glaze known as Rockingham glaze.[1][2]
The original teapots came from 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 teapot as early as the seventeenth century. These early pots were tall and shaped more like coffee pots. In the nineteenth century, the pots began to take on the more rounded shape of the modern Brown Betty. The Rockingham Glaze was brushed on the pot and allowed to run down the sides, creating a streaky finish as it was fired.
In the Victorian era, when tea was at its peak of popularity, tea brewed in the Brown Betty was considered excellent. This was attributed to the design of the pot, which allowed the tea leaves more freedom to swirl around as the water was poured into the pot, releasing more flavor with less bitterness.[3]
See also

 Pardon the poor quality of the photos, but these were snapped while watching on television and had to be done very quickly. Downton Abbey takes place during the 1920s.

 Of course, this is an upstairs tea which is quite a contrast.

 This Brown Betty has a more rounded shape.
This recent BBC series features a new owner a few years later and a new staff living in the same 165 Eaton Place residence as the original Upstairs Downstairs.  Jean Marsh, co-creator, who played Rose, the parlor maid in the original series, reprised her role, this time as a housekeeper. You can read more about the new series and Rose here.  The original aired on Masterpiece theater in 1973-74. The series aired for three consecutive years from 1973-1976.
If you haven't watched Upstairs Downstairs, it is available on Netflix.  We watched Upstairs Downstairs in the seventies and have now watched all 68 episodes again as well as the new version.
This teapot looks more like the coffee pot shape Wikipedia mentioned above, so do you believe this is an earlier-dated Brown Betty? Feel free to jump in with any knowledge you have. I am not an authority just become intrigued with the customs of preparing and drinking tea and the customs that go along with it. It is quite interesting and complex.
I found a neat blog that expounds on the Brown Betty that you can view here. I think I have bitten off more than I can chew through blogging about tea! There are scores of books written on the subject. There are scores of blogs about tea. I now realize I was presumptuous to blog about tea because so many are more knowledgeable than I am. However,  I have a few more things I find interesting to share coming up.
 On a personal level, this is the teapot that my grandmother gave me when I was ten years old. She brought me Russian tea in it when I was sick. It is very special to me but as you can see it is broken now. I bumped the whatnot shelf it was on, and it fell off and broke. I was so sad my husband worked hours trying to glue it back together, but in the end, it was not possible.  It does have the brown betty shape.
But it is not an authentic brown betty. It would be more collectible before it was broken because it was made in occupied Japan.  Of course, it is valuable to me because it has sweet memories.

Do you have a brown betty? Did you know what one was before you read this post? Don't get the teapot confused with apple brown betty the dessert.

Next post: What is creme tea?

Linking to Seasonal Sundays, Tabletop Tuesday, Wow us Wednesday Open House Party Thursdays 


  1. I always thought a brown Betty was an apple dessert?! xo

  2. Hi Bonnie,

    This is such a sweet and beautiful teapot; I'm so sorry it got broken. I can understand how that would have made you really sad. To answer your question, I didn't know what a Brown Betty was, and like Barbara, I thought it was some kind of dessert. Now you can see that my mind is too often on food. :-D

    I've been thinking about renting the original "Upstairs Downstairs" from Netflix, as I've never seen it before, and we'll have to wait a whole year before Downton Abbey returns. I've enjoyed this post and look forward to your post about creme tea (I've never been exactly sure what that is, either). Have a wonderful evening Bonnie!



  3. How interesting about the Brown Betty I'll be looking for one and it would be very difficult to find one around here, but than again, who knows!! I love yours from your grandma and yes, the memories are what counts, even if it's broken. Have a good week. I adore Downton fact I just saw the reprise from last Thursday, today!

  4. Oh, Bonnie! I was all enthralled with the information about the Brown Betty, and then I got to the end of your post. I did one of those things where your hand flies up to cover your mouth and stifle an audible gasp. I'm so sorry your treasure got broken! Isn't that the way it always happens, though? Everything else that has no sentimental meaning remains intact and the thing you most treasure bites it. :-( Your memories will last forever, though, and big pats on the back to your hubby for trying his best to save it! I'm with Denise and Barbara...I always thought it was some sort of dessert, too. I'm not that bright, though, so it's OK! :-)

  5. Hi Bonnie,

    I knew what a brown Betty was but loved your post on it too.

    Your teapot is beautiful.

    Have a good week

    x Fiona

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  9. Bonnie~ What a sweet teapot, so sorry it is broken :( The colors and glaze is wonderful and would still make a lovely vignette on a tray or on a bookshelf. I think I'm the only person in North America who hasn't watched Downton Abbey :)

  10. Although I've heard the name, I had no idea that a Brown
    Betty was a teapot. I think that I heard it as the name of a dessert...Apple Brown Betty? So interesting. Thank you! CherryKay

  11. I don't have a Brown Betty but how interesting! Thanks for the education!...Christine

  12. Interesting. I didn't know what a Brown Betty was. Great post. Hugs, Marty

  13. Bonnie, I thought Brown Betty was a dessert! LOL! So you did me a great service by educating me about the tea pots. Thank you so much. I'll look forward to learning more next time. blessings ~ tanna
    ps so sorry about your tea pot. I know those memories are precious.

  14. Do you know if I can buy a teapot like the one in the picture of downton abbey? I totally love it!! But I ca't find it anywhere! Help, anyone!

  15. This is a great post about the Brown Betty, and I love your illustrations from Downton Abbey. I enjoy tea parties and have a lot of pretty tea pots, but no Brown Betty. I know new ones can be bought from Amazon and found in consignments stores, but I would like to have an authentic James Sadler Brown Betty made in England. If I pass an antique store and have time, I check it out. I haven't found an authentic one yet, but looking for it is fun! I love your blog and found it when I googled "Brown Betty."


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