The British are one of the top three tea drinking nations in the world. So, it will come as no surprise to learn that they are also top of the European biscuit eating league. Our love of a cup, pot or mug of tea alongside a tasty biscuit or two is well known throughout the land. So, like Hansel and Gretel before me, I voyaged down a crumb ridden path to find out which biscuit, is the best tea dunking biscuit. To do this I explored dunking biscuits, making up some slam-dunk rules along the way to find the king of the dunkers.
Now, you can’t really take a look at biscuits without addressing the couple of biscuit shaped elephants in the room. Firstly, for any North American friends, we are talking about biscuits, not the sconey dumpling type thing that you mistakenly call a biscuit.
Secondly, we have to get the Jaffa Cake elephant out of the away.
Dunking biscuits go soft, not stale.
Quite simply, Jaffa Cakes can’t be included in any discussion about the best dunking biscuit, or even one about the best biscuits to have with tea, because, quite simply, they are cakes. Now before someone goes mental, they are cakes. They are described as cakes on their packaging, by their makers and manufacturers and also by HMRC. Yes, they may be in the biscuit aisle but so are milled oatcakes and sometimes cream crackers, and they are not dunking biscuits either.
To explore further, cakes are considered by the government to be a staple food, i.e. a necessity. This means that in the UK they are exempt from VAT, which is currently set at 20%. Having Jaffa Cakes as cakes, makes them cheaper, which is good. The same can be said for plain biscuits, such as Rich Teas, Nice Biscuits or Digestives.
Biscuits coated with some sort of icing, such as Party Rings, or some caramel stuff, such as Gold bars, or some other product different in taste and appearance from chocolate are also not classed as a luxury either. Furthermore, biscuits with chocolate or chocolatey stuff in, such as chocolate chip cookies or bourbon biscuits, despite their chocky chipness or chocky layeredness, they also escape the tax.
Only when a biscuit is covered, or enrobed, in chocolate does it becomes a luxury food, meaning it gets hit with the standard 20% rate of VAT. This is why some biscuits are so cheap, and some are somewhat ridiculously priced. Biscuit indulgence sure does come at a cost.
So, in regards to Jaffa Cakes, this argument was settled many years ago in court between cake and biscuit maker McVities and HMRC. One crucial aspect of the argument related to what happens when biscuits or cakes go stale. The court found, as anyone who has forgotten to put the lid on their biscuit tin properly will know, that when biscuits go stale, they go softer. But when cakes go stale, they go harder. The test was done, and when Jaffa cakes are left exposed to the air they got harder. So, Jaffa cakes are definitely cakes, and not biscuits. To further exclude them, Jaffa Cakes don’t even make a good dunker due to their soggy bottomness. Yes, some might like that, but you are obviously wrong. They also fail one of my rules (which I look at later) on eating/dunking conformity. Yes, Jaffa Cakes go very well with a cup of tea but we are here for dunking biscuits, not tea accompanying treats. That would be a whole other conversation with much discussion about this and that, ultimately ending with Battenburg victorious.
Meanwhile, chocolate bars with a biscuit-like filling like Twix’s are considered neither biscuit, nor cake. Instead, they’re classed as confectionery, which all gets hit with standard-rated VAT.
Now, I hope that has cleared things up with Jaffa Cakes and tax. The thing is though, what makes a good dunker biscuit does not obey to the rules of HMRC. The aforementioned Twix, alongside things like a Kit-Kat are good dunkers. Kit-Kats also crunch, as does a Twix. Such things do however have different ways of eating. They get dunk-sucked, nibbled, de-layered and gobbled so they break my rules of my dunk-biscuitry.
A good dunking biscuit should have a crunch, with good absorbency.
Now, despite many other dunking based articles on other websites, finding the best dunking biscuit is not about how long it can last as a whole in hot tea. Good dunking is never about how long a biscuit lasts when dunked in a cuppa, it’s about how good it tastes after a submergence. Of course, we all do a long dunk occasionally but any seasoned dunker knows that it’s not a science experiment, it’s an art form. Nobody wants to endure biscuit slops left over in the bottom of their cup at the end (unless of course, you’re a psychopath) so less is always more. Dunking is about brewtime satisfaction and nothing else. A good dunk should purely be for a second or two. A dunk should penetrate the biscuit, 40% on a first dunking, with a further 20% on a second dip. A well dunked biscuit should have the tiniest slither of crunch left, with its juicy soft sides falling off into a salivating mouth, like well cooked meat falling off a bone.
A dunking biscuit should be crisp and be able to be snapped.
Chewy biscuits do not make good dunkers. This is an irrefutable fact that’s even written in the bible somewhere, probably. Who wants to tear a biscuit because of a chewy centre? No, no, no. Any dunker worth their salt knows a biscuit must be dry and crisp, ready to be rehydrated by the tea gods. Any great dunking biscuit must be able to be cracked or snapped clean in half, with minimal crummage.
Dunking biscuits should be sweet and moreish.
The moreish thing is vitally important, as is its sweetness. A good dunking biscuit should encourage getting 5 at a first sitting, then eating them all and then going back to the cupboard because 5 was never, and will never, be enough to satisfy. I have savoured many delightful biscuits with a good cuppa but they have failed to be moreish enough to be considered great. Yes, tasty with a brew but alas, a couple was enough. Good dunking biscuits need willpower to leave alone. This will obviously involve the biscuit having a good, somewhat unhealthy sugar content.
Good dunkers, are conformist dunkers.
Now, I don’t mean to tell anyone how to eat anything (apart from with good manners) but good dunking biscuits shouldn’t have to be meddled or messed about with. While some may argue that biscuits with cream centres, such as custard creams and bourbons are the best dunkers, they are not. These mixed texture biscuits are an abomination, straight out of the devils dangly bits. They involve people licking, twisting, teeth scraping and nibbling them down using their own preferred method of biscuit disposal. There’s no standard way of eating them, with personal preference taking the place of real, standard dunking. Oreos specifically state licking and twisting as a method of eating which nobody, especially people with children, will attest is a clean way of dunking a biscuit. Dunking is a graceful artform. It’s a way of turning a solid into a semi-liquid, leaving no drips or sloppage. These mixed texture biscuits make a mess, leave a cup gloop and are only enjoyable when the individual has ritualised them. No, a good dunker must be enjoyed as is, without individualised enjoyment modification.
A dunking biscuit should, ideally, be no larger than the diameter of a mug.
Now, not all ‘biscuits’ are real biscuits. Chocolate chip cookies are a biscuit and the Maryland brand are a classic example of a cookie dunker biscuit. Although, in my opinion, these are not good dunkers, you can obviously dunk them – and many people do. Cookies are simply a class of biscuit. There does however come a line in the sand with cookies. Although I have no problem with their flavour or ingredients, it’s their size and texture which excludes them from being considered. Their VAT category may also change, if enrobed/covered in chocolate, but this does not exclude them from being a biscuit, size is everything. What I’m talking about are those 10cm diameter, thin, chewy in the middle cookies you get from coffee shops and supermarkets. Coming in a bag, these delights are delicious but they are excluded by several of my rules and really should be classed as a bakery item/sweet treat. These biscuits are not wholly crunchable, nor cleanly snappable (unless overdone, which is sadly quite common). Their chewy middle and moistness excludes them. They rarely crumb so are not, in any way, to be considered a good dunking biscuit.
Not worth bothering with section.
We are here for dunking biscuits. Yes, these are nice with a brew, but these worthy mentions fail to make the cut and are excluded by my rules.
Pink wafers – Just no. These are for children.
Garibaldi – Not only chewy, but bloody fruit as well. In fact, it’s not even a biscuit.
Crunch Creams – Great biscuits for any brewtime but no conformity of eating with lickers, cream scrapers and splitters.
Jammie Dodger – No eating conformity, no uniform snap or crunch.
Chocolate Fingers – No conformity, too much sucking and licking involved. Also, barely any chocolate on them these days.
Viennese biscuits variations – these are simply upmarket, snobby custard creams and bourbons.
Choco Leibniz/Choc Butter Biscuits – These are real contenders but suffer from non-conformist eating with edge nibblers.
The final verdict.
There’s a lot of great biscuits out there that are good dunkers.
Nice biscuits (pronounced Nice, not Nice by the way) are great dunkers, but they lack truly great moreishness. Digestives, some Shortbread/Shortcakes and Rich Tea’s all meet the criteria, but they are just too imperfectly perfect. Some people even like Malted Milks and Arrowroot Biscuits, but I guess someone has to slum it with their biscuits. Then there’s Hob Nobs, with their chocolate and original versions being superb, moreish dunkers.
All these classic biscuits have been around for an age and it’s because they are simply the best biscuits to dunk in tea. They’re made for brewtime dunking- it’s their entire purpose and function in life.
So, from all my musings and dunk rule making we come down to the best, truly splendid tea dunking biscuit. I give you your champion – The Ginger Nut.
First made in the 1840’s, the Ginger Nut is not only a great tasting, dunker it’s also got medicinal properties. It’s the perfect hangover biscuit, and even advised for nauseous pregnant ladies. But what makes them truly great is their size. They are the perfect sized mouthful for a double dip then bite, then double dip bite finish. Other biscuits are too large for this, with some larger ones needing 3 bites and dunks. They maintain a perfect soft outside, with a slither of crunch on a 2-dip tasting. They are also one of the only biscuits that have and maintain taste consistency, no matter the price. They are so classic and righteous that they have not been meddled with, not chocolatified nor adapted. They snap, crunch and are certainly moreish. They are just the perfect tea dipping biscuit, in every gingery little way.
Do you have any biscuit based thoughts? Then let us know in the comments below.