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