A Field Guide to British Biscuits

 

Tea. I mean, it is simple enough- hot water combines with tea and a beverage is created. Yet this, seemingly, straight forward cup of tea comes a lot of additional detail.

What type of tea do you drink? How do you take it? Loose leaf or tea bags?

Everyone has their preferences on how they drink their tea... but one of the more important details to discuss with tea is biscuits. (Because tea really shouldn't be drank without biscuits. And biscuits should definitely always be eaten with a hot cuppa.)

I'll say that while we, as Americans, lump biscuits into the general cookie category, but after a few years here- I can't do it anymore. There are cookies (softer, larger and more of a homemade nature) and then there are biscuits. Biscuits are crunchy, mass-produced and are sized small enough to fit perfectly when dunked into a mug of tea. 

And they are so, so cheap. Obviously, you can buy fancy biscuits at the famous department stores for several pounds per package... but if you head into any grocer, they'll have a huge section dedicated to the brand-name and generic versions of each of these biscuits. All costing anywhere from £0.40 per pack upwards to around £1.50. Basically, biscuits aren't a treat that is exclusive to the elite... no, no. Everyone has the right to enjoy a good biscuit with their tea.

So after years of taste testing, I present to you- the fruits of my labor. Yes, I give you a field guide to the best British biscuits. 


1. custard cream: a petite sandwich of two flat biscuits married by a custard filling. (most similar to: vienna fingers)

2. digestive: perhaps the godfather of all biscuits. a standard cookie that absorbs tea to an astounding degree when dunked. (most similar to: graham crackers)

3. bourbon creams: an oblong sandwich made from two long chocolate biscuits with a chocolate filling. also known as a "bourbon biscuit." pronounced as "bore-bun," rather than "bur-bin." (most similar to: e.l. fudge sandwich cookies)

4. shortbread finger: a butter cookie made, traditionally, of flour, sugar and butter. while shortbread can be made into several shapes, the finger makes for an excellent companion to tea. typically associated with scotland, as mary queen of scots is said to have brought the biscuit into popularity.

5. jammie dodger: a sandwich comprised of two flat biscuits with a jam filling (typically raspberry). some variations have sugar crystals on the biscuit or jam-filling.

6. jaffa cake: though in the biscuit family, the jaffa cake is actually comprised of a layer of sponge cake, covered in orange jam coated in chocolate. 

7.  nice biscuit: a small, crunchy biscuit that looks generic upon first glance, but stands out for it's coconut flavor and trademark "nice" stamp across the front. 

8. tunnock's caramel wafer: thin layers of wafers and caramel combine within a chocolate coating. while it may taste along the lines of a candy bar, it is definitely considered a tea-time staple. (most similar to: hard to say- but maybe something like the love child of a kit kat and a twix?)

9. chocolate covered digestive: though technically still a digestive, the chocolate variation on the classic is worthy of distinction. 

 


 

I know, I know. I skipped a few classics like ginger biscuits, wafers, rich tea biscuits and tea cakes. These are worthy candidates, but alas- they'll have to make someone else's line up of the best biscuits.

Now, study this with great diligence and make sure you do plenty of lab time with the subject. You won't be able to ace this topic unless you test all the subjects... many, many, many times.

 

What's your favorite tea & biscuits combo? ( I hold true to a cup of english breakfast (with milk) and custard creams.) 

 



 

 

*image original to aspiring kennedy

 

Posted on July 31, 2015 and filed under eat, england, hot tea, london.

My Notting Hill: Melt Chocolates

 

Our old flat was tucked deep in Notting Hill. While it made getting to/from public transport a haul, it did have some major advantages.... mainly, it's proximity to the retail heaven of Westbourne Grove. 

 

 

I used to wander past the tiny chocolate shop, Melt Chocolates, nearly every day, but it wasn't until this week that I stopped in and tried their ice cream. 

Then it was two days after that I came back and got more.

 

 

This small luxury chocolatier makes gorgeous handmade chocolates that can be found at the Notting Hill boutique, Holland Park boutique or their concession in Selfridges. While Ive been a big fan of their vanilla caramels and boxes of Vanilla Sugar (delicious on buttered toast), I was drawn in by their handmade sign for ice cream. 

 

 

The ice cream flavor choices aren't vast (vanilla, salted caramel, and chocolate), but they're all amazing. The chocolate tastes like an actual chocolate- so luxurious! And the salted caramel... my goodness. I can't explain it, but you'll have to just try it. I have a feeling I'm going to swap baby weight for ice cream weight.

Beyond chocolates and ice cream, the shop also has a coffee bar. One of their vanilla caramels, a latte and a book in their tiny garden is a pretty great way to spend a quiet morning, in my opinion. 

And if you're looking for something really fun- you can take chocolate-making classes in their kitchen. (Dream!)

Anyway, Im starting to babble. Obviously, I like this place. I hope you'll stop by when you're nearby and validate my love for this heavenly little place.

 

MELT CHOCOLATES. 59 LEDBURY ROAD, LONDON W11 2AA

020 7727 5030

 

Find more of my favorite neighborhood spots in my Notting Hill Guide.

 


And for those that asked on Instagram, Viola's outfit details are below. I can typically find the Joes Jeans at Nordstrom Rack at even better sales prices for around $20- but the options are typically pretty random.





*images original to aspiring kennedy



Posted on July 28, 2015 and filed under eat, london, shopping.

Saturday/Funday

 

This week. It has been a blur. A tough blur of work, hosting dinner parties at our place, and never feeling rested because of the sleep training drama. (Yes, its still happening. Things are better... then worse, then better again. Two steps forward and the like.) 

By the time Saturday morning came around, I needed some time with Tyler to recenter. We both run around throughout the week trying to juggle all the various aspects of our lives... and sometimes, we spend too much of that time apart. It can get to the point where we look at each other and realize that we are doing a lot as husband + wife without enjoying our lives together in the process.

So the day was a slow one- spent taking care of each other in small ways, but the ways that remind each other that you care about them: a cup of coffee without asking, saying thanks for doing an unglamorous chore and indulging them in a stop for ice cream way too close to dinner time, (obviously that was my request... old habits die hard) and not flinching when it is suggested to eat dinner out rather than cook at home (again, all me).

 


Take a cue from my kind husband and initiate being kind to someone feeling worn down. It will make their day.




 

*images original to aspiring kennedy

 

Posted on July 27, 2015 and filed under life, london.

To A Tea: Baglioni Italian Afternoon Tea + Spa

 

You know those places that you pass everyday in your normal errands that you always notice, but go years without taking a foot inside of them? Well, I have passed the Baglioni Hotel a squillion times as it is so close to our flat, but had never actually been inside until today.

And I'll just go ahead and spoil the ending: I'm planning on going back all the time now. The End.

But in case you want to read the chapters in between my entrance to the hotel and the conclusion, here you are. (I could probably write a small love story about our day here.)

The Baglioni is part of the Baglioni Hotels- an Italian chain of luxury hotels. Their London property sits on an amazing location just at the end of Kensington Church Street across from Kensington Palace. While everything around the hotel is very, well, British, the Baglioni has just the right amount of Italian flair to make it a distinct destination. 

It's not different in an obnoxious way... instead, it's more like English with an Italian accent. :) Case in point: the Baglioni Italian Afternoon Tea.

 

 

While the concept, setting and flavors are predominantly standard for an afternoon tea, the Baglioni has added in some special Italian touches to it: Bellavista instead of Champagne, traditional scones served with jam, cream AND nutella, mini paninis stuffed alongside traditional finger sandwiches and Italian treats like cannoli and tiramisu for dessert.


We had a few guests make a cameo during our visit.  

Of course, they were both hungry, too.

 

But that giant dish of Nutella wasn't even the best part.

The Baglioni has an offer for a Spa Day that combines the Italian Afternoon Tea with a 50 Minute Massage in their luxe spa for £105. Relaxation? Deep Tissue? Hot Stone? You name it- they are all included in the offer. And you can trust me, you are not going to find that combination for that price anywhere in London! All the details can be found here... and giddy Instagram selfie taken in the spa below. 

 


The hotel spa is definitely not an afterthought. The facilities are gorgeous, the treatment rooms are stunning and the showers and steam room are worth a trip to the spa themselves.

What an amazing day- thank you, Baglioni, for making my dreams come true. And thank you to my friend, Nancy H Gibbs, photographer extraordinaire, for taking such gorgeous photos.



Find more of London's best afternoon teas here.



 

*images by Nancy H Gibbs

*This visit was hosted by Baglioni Hotels. Opinions are my own.

 

 

Posted on July 22, 2015 and filed under eat, hot tea, london.

Sleep: Once Upon A Time

 

I'll be honest: I can operate on not a lot of sleep. When people ask me how I juggle kids, work, school and blogging, all I can say is: I don't get nearly enough sleep.

But lately, my booty has been getting kicked in the sleep department. And it's not by the newborn that has arrived. It's our toddler.

Holy Moly. 

I'm embarrassed to admit, but we are having to sleep train our 2.5 year old. It's not pretty and I didn't want to ever have to do this... but naps and bedtime have become a 1.5-2 hour ordeal every night. What was once a cute time to cuddle has become a dreaded marathon every night. I have no doubt that this is our fault, but for the longest time, cuddling with Viola as she fell asleep was an easy and painless solution. Until it wasn't.

So here we are. Weekend warriors. Only this weekend, the war is against sleep. Or maybe the toddler? I don't know, but I hate. hate. hate this. Has anyone else been here? Please tell me it does work and that we aren't ruining our child.

 

 

If anyone out there needs some advice or sound medical perspective, Dr. Craig Canapari has a blog with loads of topics that I have found helpful and encouraging for whatever stage or situation you may be at. Check it out, if you're in a similar nocturnal boat.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on July 17, 2015 and filed under babies, kids, life.