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It is 2016, and we have managed great things. We have put a man on the moon. We have phones with the powers of computers that fit in the palm of our hands. We are starting 3D printing and nanotechnology. And yet, one question still plagues humanity, unanswered and unapproached, but always controversial.
What is exactly is the best biscuit to dunk into a mug of tea? A true British tradition in my view, but some people still view those who dunk as primitive, or unable to comprehend the true taste of a mug of steaming Earl Grey, or a good pack of McVities. To those, I say this article is not for you. This article is for all those dunkers out there, all those students who sit with the pack and munch their way through during revision, dunking in good and proper. To you, I dedicate this article.
On to the question. While it is impossible to truly account for everyone’s taste, and not forgetting that this is wholly opinionated, I decided to experiment using seven biscuit varieties, to find the very best to dunk. All varieties were dunked for ten seconds (in my view the maximum dunking time, though I prefer a shorter time usually) to test five key factors: absorbency, change of taste, structural integrity, ease of eating and finally, overall change.
I tried to select a variety of biscuits, both in terms of taste, quality and type. In the end, my seven were Nice, Custard Cream, Bourbon, Malted Milk (all of which come in an excellent variety pack), Caramel Digestives (The ‘luxury purchase’), Maryland Cookies and the classic Rich Tea. I should stress I controlled the conditions that all biscuits were kept in once purchased (admittedly a large box in my room is not the best substitute for a biscuit tin), and that all biscuits were dunked in a steaming hot mug of tea.
Onto the results, starting off with absorbency. Absorbency is not the most obvious factor you would consider when you dunk a biscuit in tea, but it is actually very important. If the biscuit soaks up tea like kitchen towel, and becomes a soggy mush reminiscent of baby food, it perhaps isn’t going to be the best option. Alternatively, if the biscuit is like a slate tile, and has no absorbency whatsoever, what is the point in dunking it?! You waste valuable biscuit eating time. Let’s start off with the Custard Cream, which was a solid performance, holding its shape well and giving a slight heady tea hint to the vanilla cream, on a par with the Malted Milk. Granted, it wasn’t as nice as the Bourbon, which took on the flavour and melded it with the chocolate taste, or the Caramel Digestive, which stayed stuck together thanks to the caramel glue. But it was certainly better than the cookies, which absorbed lots of tea, but didn’t let the flavour through. The Rich Tea was clearly the one that held the taste best (unsurprising considering the name), but the real loser was the Nice. Might be nice by name, but it wasn’t nice to see my tea absorb half the biscuit.
Next onto tastiness- don’t think I need to explain the importance here! The cookies again were underwhelming, the loss of crunch was a shame, though the undunked part still tasted good, and the chocolate shone through. The Rich Tea after the long dunk became little more than a soggy mush, not appetising at all! Caramel Digestives had a nice hint of melted chocolate, but the slightly warmed caramel was very sweet and cloying, as sweet as the Nice, but the latter lacked real flavour. Bourbon’s dunked half tasted good when melded with the crunch of the rest and the softer fondant, an accolade it shared with the Custard Cream, although admittedly the vanilla was less appealing. Malted Milk shone through, with the malt and milk being a perfect blend for the brew.
For structural integrity, again I need to explain very little. I can just show you the above chart, and you can see the clear winners and losers. I will state again, I don’t consider these results as finite! But already, a clear top two was emerging.
Finally, we come to how easy it was to eat the biscuit after the dunking. Was it still pleasantly whole? Or breaking up all over the place? Malted Milk and Nice both fall foul of the latter, much to my annoyance. The cookies threatened to break up, as did the Rich Tea, if I had been any slower in popping them in my mouth, then they probably would have been lost too. The Caramel Digestive wasn’t snapping or sloping down, but the melted chocolate was somewhat troublesome on the fingers, they needed wiping before they could touch the mug again for a sip of the second tea. (science is thirsty work). The Bourbon and Custard Cream both did not break at all, there was some slight weakness on the edges, but they didn’t spell any crumbs either.
So now, we come to my final assessment, from worst to best based on my sample data.
7th: Nice: The Michael Bay of biscuit dunking, it didn’t perform well at all!
6th: Rich Tea: It may be in the name, but it just shows the classics aren’t always the best!
5th: Cookies: The chocolate taste and chunks are much more suited to hot chocolate than a cuppa!
4th: Malted Milk: The taste was great, just a shame it was only half a biscuit’s worth!
3rd: Custard Cream: The Arsenal FC of biscuit dunking; some quality, but ultimately not quite the best!
2nd: Caramel Digestives: The taste and structure was still there, but the higher cost isn’t worth the small amount of biscuits in the pack!
1st: Bourbon: A good taste, keeps the shape, a nice semi-melted fondant and cheap too!
As I wipe away my biscuit crumbs from my table, and honour the fallen biscuits who fell in the name of science, I can only wonder what question next I will be called upon to answer.
Disclaimer: This is all my opinion! I love all biscuits equally!