Is there anything really as comforting as a cup of tea and a decent biscuit? Sometimes I opt for coffee, but either way the biscuit is the point of the exercise. Biscuits have always been my downfall as opposed to sweets. I’d trade you a few Hob Nobs anytime for a Mars Bar, a Snickers or even a bar of Dairymilk. More serious bartering may have to be entered into in the case of the Twix however, as although I don’t believe it is a biscuit, it has good dunking value which qualifies it as suitable to go with a hot beverage.
It must be this awful bloody weather that has me focused on tea and biscuits. Sadly when large rain drops are pelting against the window the tinkling chimes of the ice cream van tend to drive me to the kettle and the biscuit tin instead of outside to elbow children out of the way for a 99. Spare a thought for Ice Cream Van owners everywhere this summer. As if the credit crunch wasn’t enough, the weather must have hampered sales even further.
Now you may be thinking that this is a ridiculous topic to dedicate an entire article to, but the frivolous biscuit is taken very seriously in the business world. A UK study of over one thousand businesses turned in a result that 80% of businesses, that’s approximately 4 out of 5, believe the type of biscuit they serve to potential clients at meetings could clinch the deal or make it crumble. Chocolate Digestives, Shortbread and Hob Nobs, in that order, were the preferred choice when it came to making a good impression.
Crumbly biscuits, it appears, are the kiss of death in a meeting. Biscuit etiquette at meetings was also examined with two being the most acceptable number of biscuits you should take from the communal plate. Dunking biscuits in meetings is to be thoroughly discouraged.
In other biscuit news those of you with a particular liking for Fig Rolls may have noticed a shortage in recent months. Fig Roll production by all the main manufacturers was in crisis earlier this year. The problem arose when the fig crop in Turkey took a battering last summer. Drought affected the fig harvest and also laid low a species of pollinating wasp which attends to the fig flowers. Jacobs indicated that they sourced figs from the USA and production was returned to normal in May or June. The hiccup should be evening out around now.
Entire websites have been dedicated to the biscuit. One of the best I came across was www.nicecupofteaandasitdown.com. Nice cup of tea and a sit down is a quirky site about a couple’s never ending international quest for the best tea and biscuits. As a fellow biscuit lover they certainly speak my language. I would have to concur that
Jaffa Cakes are not biscuits and never were. They may be found in the biscuit aisle and come in a high end biscuit like box, but at the end of the day there isn’t a hint of biscuit about them. They are sponge based and called cakes for that very reason. They are relatively pleasant with a cup of tea, but there is no crunch factor. Their dunking value is poor in that although the sponge may soak up the liquid quite efficiently, they drip quite badly between cup and lip.
My other suspicions were also confirmed; Pink Wafers are not biscuits and also biscuits do not come individually wrapped. Penguins, Rockys, Clubs or any of the supermarket equivalents are very definitely bars.
I decided to have a biscuit tasting (Well it is a wet summer after all!) The biscuits were chosen in specific categories; low end, mid range and of course luxury. On the low end I was surprised to find that you could buy an entire packet of biscuits for less than a small bag of Malteesers, but equally shocked to realise that a standard size luxury packet of biscuits can be more expensive than a bottle of wine. What a crazy world we live in.
We had custard creams from both the cheap end and quality branded variety. The modern day custard cream is unrecognizable from what I remember as a child. Both the low end and the mid range custard cream were a disaster. In my childhood this biscuit sandwich was quite a delight and a packet could easily be finished in one sitting. I hadn’t had one for quite a while.
To say I was disappointed is the understatement of the year. There was a synthetic quality to both that annoyed the taste buds rather than teased them. The middle layer was powdery instead of creamy and cemented in place. Taking off the top layer to get at the middle layer was impossible without crumbling the thing entirely. They were both very definitely smaller than I remember them. Jersey Creams seem to have retained some of their original quality, but the fluted edges are decidedly less fluted these days.
I’m glad to report that the taste of Jacobs Mikado has remained consistent through over 30 years despite the fact that the company is now owned by a large European giant, although there is no doubt they are smaller than they used to be. People may try to fob me off with the theory that my hand is now bigger, but even with that taken into consideration, they have definitely shrunk. Cadbury’s Fingers and Cadbury’s Animals are still very good and are consistent in size.
For the craic I had thrown in Nice and Marietta biscuits for nostalgia sake. Were Nice biscuits still not that nice and were Marietta really the dull and dowdy poor relation to a real biscuit? Although Mariettas were always the last ones left in the barrel or the emergency packet at the back of the cupboard, they could always be dramatically improved when buttered and another Marietta put on the top. Butter spilling through the holes and then licked off was all part of the experience. I can report that the holes in Marietta biscuits are not as good as they used to be. You could blame the butter quality perhaps, but I tend to think it is the fault of the biscuit. There’s only one thing to say about Nice biscuits and that is, they remain not that nice.
All in all it was pleasant hour or so spent in a rather innocent pursuit. Shortbread still came out on top, but only the high end variety I’m afraid. The cheaper imitators just don’t cut it at all. If the children are now on your last nerve with the current spell of bad weather try a biscuit tasting for a bit of fun. If nothing else it will certainly awaken the child in you.