Tea and Biscuits
Save Our British Traditions: Tea and Biscuits

Tea and biscuits is a great British institution: it’s the traditional way of offering instant hospitality with no fuss. If someone drops in unexpectedly, you can have the kettle on and the biscuit tin open in seconds. A few years ago, newspapers reported that the usual welcome to the British home is in decline: people are far too busy. Another disturbing recent report suggests many households no longer own a kettle: the kettle is apparently losing out to coffee machines, one-cup hot water dispensers, and the practice of heating mugs of water in microwave ovens. Further research suggests that the homely packet biscuit is giving way in the popularity stakes to American style cookies and Italian biscotti.

Packet Biscuits and Homemade Biscuits

There’s a definite distinction between traditional packet biscuits and homemade ones: they are a different texture for a start. One is drier, smaller and plainer (apart from the chocolate ones, obviously) the other bigger, bouncier and more extravagant. A single plain biscuit from a packet (or two, at a stretch) is the ideal accompaniment to early morning tea.

Many commercial biscuits hold a special place in people’s hearts. Even the names act as a kind of password to a gentle, soothing world of reviving hot drinks and reaching into the cupboard or nipping to the corner shop for your favourites: Rich Tea, Morning Coffee, Marie, Arrowroot (if you are feeling a bit seedy), Nice (prompting the perpetual question: do you say Neece, as in the French town, or nyce, as in very pleasing?), Bourbons, Custard Creams, Ginger Nuts, Malted Milk, Digestives, to name just a few.

Sometimes only packet biscuits will do, it depends on the occasion, but homemade biscuits are such a treat, it is well worth taking the trouble when you can.

Dunking Etiquette: should you dunk in public?

Some of us have never quite understood dunking biscuits: why would you want to make something crisp go soggy? However, many are huge fans of the practice. It’s very much a question of personal taste but dunking is probably best left to informal occasions with family and close friends.

Bring Back the Teapot

The usual method of tea preparation these days seems to be a teabag in a mug of hot water but you can’t beat tea from a pot for flavour - and for making guests feel especially welcome.

Tea Tips

Boil the kettle using freshly drawn water so it’s properly oxygenated. This avoids that ‘flat’ taste you sometimes get.

Warm the pot.

‘Take the pot to the kettle’ so the water is still on the boil.

Choose the right sized teapot – it should be filled to the top to avoid premature cooling.

‘Steep’, ‘brew’ or ‘mash’ (depending upon which part of the country you are from) for 2-5 minutes before pouring.

Biscuit Crumbs . . . .

The Queen is said to accompany her morning cup of Darjeeling with a Marie biscuit or two.

The word 'biscuit' comes from the Latin for twice-cooked.

Digestive biscuits are so called as they contain bicarbonate of soda. (They don’t really aid digestion unfortunately.) Nevertheless, 52 digestive biscuits are supposedly consumed every second worldwide.

The Bourbon celebrated its 100th birthday in 2010.

Custard Creams, Bourbons and Malted Milk remain favourites with children and young adults.