thirty-second in a series of posts about all the essential accessories for taking tiffin with (black) tea in the NW USA.
Thursday Tiffin #32: dunking the biscuit
Normally tea is accompanied by a biscuit or two. In England there are 4 very popular types manufactured by multiple different companies:
- Digestives. Named after the erroneous belief that the bicarbonate of soda they contained would aid digestion.
- custard creams. Which do not have custard in them.
- Rich Tea biscuits. Which are not particularly rich and do not have any tea in them
- HobNobs. Might be made on a hob, I don’t think they include nobs.
There are cookie secitions in US shops that include some biscuits that look a bit like the generic biscuit types listed above. The biscuits are not categorised by this typology which makes them a tad more difficult to find in the US.
There are other distinctive well known biscuits (Garibaldi, Gingernut, Shortcake) that I’m not covering here. Most English homes will have at least 2 of the 4 biscuit types. The quality of the biscuit will vary depending on the manufacturer, brand. As a student I found very cheap custard creams and would even make my Hobnobs.
These digestives are the most tricky to dunk, almost as soon as they touch the tea they start to disintegrate. Only very experienced dunkers can work with these. Mumzie keeps a stock of these in the house. They were ‘invented’ in Scotland. These biscuits were originally a McVities brand.
Digestive Dunking Skill level: Expert
Wonderful for dunking in your tea when your mum isn’t looking. This is an excellent starter biscuit if you are planning to take-up dunking as part of your tea drinking ceremony.
The custard cream has similar liquid soaking properties to the American brand Nabisco Oreo. The texture is similar, I consider the Oreo as a subset of the custard-cream category.
Custard Cream Dunking skill level: Novice
The Rich tea is large and often simply does not fit in the tea-cup, its difficult to dunk. Not as difficult to dunk as the digestive, but difficult none-the-less. If you loose focus for a few seconds it can absorb more liquid than it’s structure can support. If you are me, a large part of the biscuit falls off into your cup of tea. This is a bit icky. You should practice dunking rich tea biscuits in private before doing it in public, you need a technique that is biscuit specific.
Rich Tea Dunking skill level: Advanced
The Hobnob is an excellent dunker. You have to be particularly inept for this biscuit to collapse into your cuppa. The addictive effect of the Hobnob, especially chocolate hobnobs, along with a cup of tea cannot be underestimated. Wikipedia cites the origin of the name as “The name comes from an earlier phrase, to hob or nob, meaning “to drink together, taking turns toasting one another,” probably from Middle English habbe “to have” and nabbe, a contraction of ne + habbe, “to have not,” hence, “to have and have not, to give and take” McVities Hobnobs are considered exceptional, thier advertising campaigns in the late 1980s and market domination are impressive. The name is almost becoming synonymous with the McVities product.
Hobnob Dunking skill level: Beginner