Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tea and Isabella Beeton

Isabella  Mayson Beeton (1836 - 1865) was a remarkable woman who accomplished many things during the 28 years of her short life. She was born on Milk Street, Cheapside, London. Her mother was friends with a woman who had a son named Samuel Orchard Beeton. After the children grew up they married and started a family of their own. Samuel was a publisher of magazines and books. Isabella, being a good help-meet, contended not only with homemaking and parenting duties, but established herself as an asset to his publishing business. She wrote and published articles for magazines on the topic of household management and cooking. Over time she wrote a book that is known to this day as Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. It was a huge volume of over 1,112 pages. The book content included reliable information and advice, recipes, and engravings. Isabella Beeton is credited with being the first to show recipes with ingredients being listed at the beginning, the common format that is still used today. The book contents claimed to include information about everything needed to run a successful home for the middle classes. A well-written cookbook includes only recipes that the author and their assistants have personally tested. Mrs. Beeton’s was not an exception. Every recipe published was tried in her kitchen first. If she didn’t make it herself, her cook or kitchen maid prepared it for her. It was important to her that each recipe be practical economically and she was always careful to include how many servings a recipe made. Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management was a best-seller. By 1868, more than two million copies had been sold.

Being a guide for all aspects of homemaking, the book was sure to include valuable information about the making and service of tea. Mrs. Beeton's instructions are below:

"There is very little art in making good tea; if the water is boiling, and there is no sparing of the fragrant leaf, the beverage will invariably be good. The old-fashioned plan of allowing a teaspoonful to each person, and one over, is still practiced. Warm the teapot with boiling water. . .for two or three minutes. . .then pour it away. Put in the tea, pour in one-half to three-quarters pint of 'boiling' water, close the lid, and let it stand for the tea to draw from five to ten minutes; then fill up the pot with water. The tea will be quite spoiled unless made with water that is 'actually boiling', as the leaves will not open and the flavor will not be extracted from them."

With that said, it's time for me to find my teapot and make a fragrant pot of tea. How about you?

Photo: a teapot cross-stitch that was given to me by a friend.


  1. I went to see The Best Exotic Marigold hotel yesterday. Lo and behold there was "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management" on the kitchen counter of Dame Judith's character, Evelyn. The PBS presentation of her life "The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton," was so interesting!

    By the way, the movie was very entertaining and a reminder to embrace the changes that life has to offer as we become more "mature."

    Have enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. Mrs. Beeton was a very smart young woman. How many 28 year old's these days could accomplish that?

    A lot of work went into that teapot cross-stitch. It's very pretty.

    Have a great week. Tammy

  3. Rice Pudding is my husband's favorite dessert. When I asked his mum for the recipe she used when the kids were growing up, she told me that it was the one from Mrs. Beeton's book.

    I found an old copy on eBay, and have successfully made Rice Pudding ever since and to my husband's standards. :-)

  4. I love reading the history of Mrs. Beeton. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Mrs. Beeton's is a classic and so fun to read! Loved to find out more about her history. I love the teapot cross stitch...my favorite pastime...besides drinking tea! LOL!


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