What exactly is a british teapot?

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Rarity
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 1:33 am

I've been looking at european teapots for a bit and i've been wondering what makes a teapot distinctively british? Is it the material that is fine bone china which was developed in britain? Is it that the pot was made in britain? Or perhaps as long as the pot was made by someone who is or was formerly a british citizen? What makes pots british and to that extension makes pots unique to a particular european country?
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rdl
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:04 am

From wikipedia:
"...red clay that was discovered in the Stoke-on-Trent area of Britain, in 1695. This clay resulted in a ceramic which seemed to retain heat better and so found use as the material for the teapot as early as the seventeenth century..."
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Betty_(teapot)
I would say the Brown Betty is the quintessential British teapot
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StoneLadle
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:12 am

Given they took their tea from their colonies and consequent bastardised them it only stands to reason that their pots are the same...
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LeoFox
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:24 am

As a philosophical exercise, I will approach this using Aristotle's 4 causes. This is a bit tongue in cheek :D :lol:

As background, wikipedia:
In Physics II.3 and Metaphysics V.2, Aristotle holds that there are four kinds of answers to "why" questions:[2][5][6]

Matter (the material cause of a change or movement): The aspect of the change or movement that is determined by the material that composes the moving or changing things. For a table, such might be wood; for a statue, such might be bronze or marble.

Form (the formal cause of a change or movement): A change or movement caused by the arrangement, shape, or appearance of the thing changing or moving. Aristotle says, for example, that the ratio 2:1, and number in general, is the cause of the octave.

Agent (the efficient or moving cause of a change or movement): Consists of things apart from the thing being changed or moved, which interact so as to be an agency of the change or movement. For example, the efficient cause of a table is a carpenter, or a person working as one, and according to Aristotle the efficient cause of a boy is a father.

End or purpose (the final cause of a change or movement): A change or movement for the sake of a thing to be what it is. For a seed, it might be an adult plant; for a sailboat, it might be sailing; for a ball at the top of a ramp, it might be coming to rest at the bottom.
Question: what makes a teapot "british"?

Material cause: the clay and material used should be of British origin. Often this may not be possible, in which case at least quality attributes of the raw materials should pass some british based acceptance criteria. If we consider the firing process as a determinant of the material, then the firing should be done in Britain. This begs the question: what about a teapot fired in another country using same process parameters as a British kiln and using all British raw materials? Endless variations of this question can be posed...

Formal cause: The design should be inspired by a traditional British teapot design or determined by a British individual in Britain. Many problems here of course: how British should the person be? What does it mean to be "British"? And ultimately all teapot designs stem from the original Chinese designs. How many generations of design should it be separated from a non british design?

Efficient cause: this overlaps with the answer above - should be made by a British person. But then, what makes a person sufficiently British? What about non-british people trained in Britain or by British potters?

Final cause: to make tea by Western brewing parameters as deemed acceptable by Her Majesty the Queen.

Conclusion: clearly impossible to determine
Last edited by LeoFox on Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:39 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Bok
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:33 am

Apart from the obviously difficult definition of the matter, I can think of one quintessentially British teapot: the so called „Brown Betty“ and by extension any of the pottery workshops of the old UK.
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rdl
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:47 am

Bok,
The Brown Betty, as I referenced above but wanted to point out again as this is what I find most interesting. The local red clay that was discovered to best retain heat, that attention to and advancement of clay in the preparation of English style tea. It was always a passion and science.
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LeoFox
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:56 am

rdl wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:47 am
Bok,
The Brown Betty, as I referenced above but wanted to point out again as this is what I find most interesting. The local red clay that was discovered to best retain heat, that attention to and advancement of clay in the preparation of English style tea. It was always a passion and science.
It seems most of the BB's are now slipcast. Is there any way to find fully handmade BB's now? If not too big, maybe it would be good for shou?
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StoneLadle
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:02 am

@LeoFox Aristotle dont work like that ... Perhaps you needed to invoke Plato's Cave but that's even more defunct
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rdl
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:15 am

LeoFox wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:56 am
rdl wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:47 am
Bok,
The Brown Betty, as I referenced above but wanted to point out again as this is what I find most interesting. The local red clay that was discovered to best retain heat, that attention to and advancement of clay in the preparation of English style tea. It was always a passion and science.
It seems most of the BB's are now slipcast. Is there any way to find fully handmade BB's now? If not too big, maybe it would be good for shou?
LeoFox
There was a UK member years ago who filled me in on the current situation of the company making the BB. Lot's of issues, I believe financial was foremost, and the quality disappeared as well as the BB for a short while. He explained that there was some sort of revival, but to answer your question, I don't know the answer but I doubt there is anything hand made. I would think they have the traditional moulds and produce slip cast teapots. Curious if anyone has other information to address this?
Last edited by rdl on Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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LeoFox
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:16 am

StoneLadle wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:02 am
LeoFox Aristotle dont work like that ... Perhaps you needed to invoke Plato's Cave but that's even more defunct
:lol: :lol:
The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato
Or perhaps i should invoke Plato's noble lie: that the true true british teapots contain the transcendent golden spirit of the queen's special approval. :P :lol:
Last edited by LeoFox on Tue Oct 20, 2020 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 9:27 am

StoneLadle wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:12 am
Given they took their tea from their colonies and consequent bastardised them it only stands to reason that their pots are the same...
Ouch... lol 😂😂😂
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TeaTotaling
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:34 am

StoneLadle wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:12 am
Given they took their tea from their colonies and consequent bastardised them it only stands to reason that their pots are the same...
Very sound reasoning, indeed. Great point!
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klepto
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 4:18 pm

I've been at a few European tea houses and noticed how poorly those teapots pour tea. That and they take a thimble full of tea dust and throw it in a 300ml teapot.. Jinkiez!!
mbanu
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Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:50 pm

A British teapot is designed for making the teas that Brits prefer.

In particular:

1. British teapots are meant for Assamica teas that can oversteep. This is why when the teapot became less popular, the alternatives all revolved around this requirement that after 5 minutes the brewed tea must not be in contact with the leaves anymore. (Tea baskets, tea bags, etc.)

2. British teapots are often meant for "orthodox broken" tea. Normally this means that there is a built in strainer in the spout, although this is not guaranteed. Some older-style British teapots go with an over-the-cup strainer, even though with orthodox broken you will have more leaves caught then with something like a whole leaf Lapsang Souchong.

3. British teapots are large. Originally this was because tea was expensive enough that it was almost always a social activity. However, as the price of tea went down, the quantity consumed went up. The teapots used in British tearooms were some of the largest -- the only reason they didn't go larger still was that at that point it became more practical to use a tea-urn.

For material there is more variety. Bone China as you pointed out is a British invention. Sterling silver teapots may also be, due to a historical resistance to serving tea in metal in China. Large glazed versions of Yixing teapots, called "Brown Betty" teapots are also commonly associated with Britain, although nowadays the focus is on "Rockingham glaze" teapots because many of the older variety used lead glaze. There were also unglazed teapots, like Wedgwood's black basalt teaware.

While this could also be a U.S. or Commonwealth thing, another is that if the teapot has writing on it, it will be in English. In China teapots with poems or other writing on them seems more acceptable. These were commonplace in the UK as well, but today are often seen as being less elegant, as many of these teapots did not have poems but advertisements, political slogans, or jokes.

For figural teapots, non-Chinese motifs are more common. There was a period where it was common to make teapots inspired by Greco-Roman myths, for example. A teapot shaped like a bundle of bamboo would be very odd for a British teapot.

There are also different approaches to the same problem; Yixing teapots will offer a braided lid catcher to keep the lid on if someone pours too vigorously, while British teapots will usually try to engineer this into lid itself, such as having a catch on the lip of the teapot.
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wave_code
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Wed Oct 21, 2020 3:39 am

StoneLadle wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:12 am
Given they took their tea from their colonies and consequent bastardised them it only stands to reason that their pots are the same...
:lol:

asking what makes something 'British' or not in the age of Brexit is an either very touchy or extremely funny game. the example of some no doubt very well-informed people on Twitter finding out that Yorkshire brand tea is in fact grown in India and not in Yorkshire and then getting extremely upset about it.
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