The history of teawares is fascinating – it has been affected by, and indeed itself affected, so many different converging cultural, economic, physical and social aspects of its consumers’ lives. This was brought home to me recently by a couple of posts by Gongfu Girl, on her own blog and on The Taste of English Tea blog, about Brown Betty teapots. I didn’t realise that the name referred to such a specific type of teapot, made with a particular type of clay and glaze.
I don’t own a Brown Betty – though I do have a very lovely large pot in a similar shape made by London Pottery Co. – but I would be most interested to acquire the genuine article (and having read the above-mentioned posts, I shall be careful to make sure that it is genuine). I have seen teapots that look very much like Brown Bettys in the enormous collection gracing the high shelves at Miss Marple’s Tea Room in Sassafras – alas, they’re used for display only, and not serving tea, so I don’t know if they’re the real thing. (I will mention in passing that it is my ambition to one day own as many teapots as there are at Miss Marple’s, but it may take me some time to reach that point).
The other thing that Brown Betty teapots make me think of is a book of short stories called ‘The Dribblesome Teapots’ by Norman Hunter, which I read and loved many years ago as a child. I don’t remember the plot terribly clearly, but it revolved around the difficulty of pouring the King and Queen’s tea without it dribbling all over the place (a major royal disaster, indeed, as anyone might agree) and I have a feeling that the only teapot capable of doing the job was the trusty old Brown Betty. I may be misremembering though, and will have to try and find myself a copy of the book to be sure.