Tea and Biscuits: What kind of biscuits are served with tea?

It’s no secret that tea is a popular drink in Britain. Since being introduced to England in the 17th century, people from across the nation have practically fallen in love with this hot and tasty beverage. Of course, having been around for so long, there are plenty of different ways to enjoy a nice cup of tea, and biscuits are one of the most popular companions for this famous drink.


While tea is most commonly associated with Britain, people drink it all over the world nowadays. It’s estimated that around 3.8 billion gallons of tea were consumed in the US in 2018 alone, and this shows just how loved tea has become.


There’s a bit of a problem here, though. The term “tea and biscuits” will sound like it means something quite different to an American, with the word “cookie” being more popular to describe a biscuit across the pond. So, with that in mind, let’s explore the exciting world of tea and biscuits so that you can improve your tea-drinking experience and feel confident inviting any British friends over to join you


Why do the British dunk biscuits in tea?

Why do the British dunk biscuits in tea?


The simple answer to the question of why British people dunk biscuits in tea is easy; it tastes great and makes teatime more fun. In addition to the added enjoyment, there are some real benefits to dunking your biscuit (or cookie) into your tea, along with some historical reasons as well.

Historical Dunking


References to dunking dry foods into drinks can be found as far back as Ancient Rome, where people would dunk wafers into wine to soften them up and add flavor. Stronger ties to tea and biscuits can be found in the 16th Century British Royal Navy, with sailors dunking hardtack into beer to make their long-lasting rations easier to eat. However, it wasn’t until the Victorian era that people in Britain started to consider tea and biscuits a winning combination.

The Benefits Of Dunking


When it comes to dunking biscuits, you can enjoy far more benefits than a softer texture, with many types of popular biscuits having their flavor enhanced when they are warmed up. This only gets better when you have chocolate on your biscuits, with the heat melting the chocolate while also being soaked into the biscuit itself. Of course, some people would consider the crumby residue you get at the bottom of your mug from dunking a benefit, though this is certainly up for debate.


It's hard to pinpoint the exact time that biscuit dunking started in Britain, but it is quite clear that this activity is very popular. The type of biscuit, length of the dunk, and the temperature of the tea will all play into this, and this means that people can easily have a poor dunking experience without realizing that they’ve made a mistake. 

What do the British eat with their tea?

What do the British eat with their tea?


If you’ve ever been into a British superstore, you might have noticed how much space is dedicated to biscuits. This sweet snack is taken very seriously in the UK, and this means that there are a lot of different varieties available, from the common and unexciting to some so luxurious that they’re almost candy.


Simply picking the first pack you see for your tea and biscuits would be a big mistake. Some biscuits will fall apart as soon as they hit the water, while others will struggle to absorb much at all. So, what are the best biscuits for dunking, and what makes them so good for it? Let’s take a look.

Chocolate Digestives


Chocolate digestives are relatively simple biscuits, made by applying a layer of chocolate to a regular digestive biscuit. While they are simple, though, chocolate digestives have proven themselves in cupboards across the UK, and are one of the most dunkable biscuits on the market. The chocolate will melt slightly, while the strong structure of the digestive will keep the whole thing together and avoid any additions to your hot drink.

Rich Teas


As their name suggests, rich tea biscuits are designed to work well with tea. They have a mild taste and nice consistency that enables them to snap without becoming too soft when they are exposed to tea. This option is excellent for those who want to taste the tea in their biscuits.

Malted Milks


Malted milk biscuits have been popular for a very long time, getting their name from the malt flavoring and abundance of milk in their recipe. These biscuits have a very unique flavor, making them a popular choice for people across England. These biscuits can soften quite quickly so you need to be careful when dunking.

Bourbon Creams


It would be impossible to talk about tea and biscuits without thinking about bourbon creams. Coming in the form of a sandwich, these small biscuits consist of a chocolate cream layer that is surrounded by two delicious chocolate biscuits. The outer biscuits will become soft when dunked, but the cream core won’t change, holding the whole biscuit together when you go for longer dunks.

Shortbread


While shortbread is traditionally Scottish, this type of biscuit has long been popular across the UK. Made with a lot of sugar and butter, these biscuits are dense and delicious, making an ideal dunking biscuit if you don’t mind a few crumbs in your tea. 

Custard Creams


Custard creams are very similar to bourbon creams, only they are flavored with vanilla rather than chocolate. While they aren’t as popular as their brown cousins, these biscuits make a great option for dunkers. They stay together well and will be greatly enhanced when dunked in tea


This list is only really scratching the surface of the biscuit options available in Britain, and there are plenty of other good dunkers for you to try with your tea. It’s always worth looking for biscuits that have minimal crumbs, will fit into your mug, and won’t fall apart as soon as they touch the liquid.

Is dunking biscuits in tea bad manners?


The subject of tea and biscuit etiquette is quite a controversial one, with many people having different ideas of what is acceptable when you are enjoying tea and biscuits. Like any kind of food or drink rules, it makes sense to base the way that you enjoy these snacks on the situation you’re in. 


For example, dunking a biscuit in your tea when you are with your family at home should be completely fine. Even if the people you live with don’t like it very much, most people can ignore something like this as long as they aren’t forced to do it. This sort of thing changes when you find yourself in a work environment, though.


Professional settings like meetings often come with biscuits to go with your tea, but dunking might be a step too far, especially if the meeting is important. This has changed a little since the rise of Zoom, though you will need to mute yourself if you plan to munch on a biscuit when you’re using a tool like this with other people. According to research conducted by biscuit giant McVitie’s, more than one in five people disapprove of dunking during meetings, but 71% of people are dunkers. This shows that context means everything when it comes to dunking.


Dunking in public places is a little more complicated than dunking at home or at work. You need to read the situation you are in, along with the people around you to make sure that you won’t offend anyone. Back in 2007, a tearoom in Brighton, UK banned its guests from dunking into their tea, considering it bad etiquette.


Of course, while dunking your biscuits in tea may be considered rude to some, this sort of activity is really no different from adding gravy to a roast. For this reason, we believe that you should be able to dunk and dunk to your heart’s content no matter where you are or who you’re with (unless you’re with the Queen herself).

How do you serve biscuits with tea?


Serving biscuits with tea is nice and easy, and there are a few different ways to approach this. As mentioned previously, the selection of biscuits that you choose for this will be very important, and make sure to take your time. Aside from that, you can use the options below for inspiration, but you could also have fun and create your own biscuit serving methods.


  • Biscuit Tins

Essentially the same thing as a cookie jar, a biscuit tin is designed to keep these sweet snacks fresh. Unlike a cake, biscuits don’t dry out when they are exposed to the air, with most becoming softer and moist when they aren’t stored well. This makes biscuit tins a very popular choice for households that like their biscuits, providing a storage option that can double as your serving vessel when you want to enjoy some tea and biscuits.


  • Plated Up

Putting your biscuits onto plates is a fancier way to approach this, giving you the chance to impress guests when they see the spread. It’s always worth being careful to make sure that your biscuits are organized by their taste, with options like Ginger Nut biscuits having the power to change the taste of other foods if they are exposed to each other for too long.


Serving the tea that you have prepared will be the harder part of this process. In the past, people would use teapots to make enough tea for large groups of people, but this item isn’t found in many modern homes. Thankfully, a kettle, some mugs, and a tea bag for each of your guests should solve this problem. If you have a teapot, it makes sense to add sugar and milk to the table so that people can make their tea taste how they like it.

What snacks go well with tea?

What snacks go well with tea?


Biscuits have been a popular choice for tea drinkers for a long time, but there are other snacks that can go very well with this beverage. Most of these can be found in England, but you may want to look further to find more interesting and unique ideas. Let’s take a look at some of the other popular choices for those who enjoy drinking tea.

Afternoon Tea (Scones)


No matter how you pronounce it, scone has a word that any tea-drinker should recognize. Being quite similar to American biscuits, scones are more like cakes than cookies, and this makes them ideal for those who prefer softer baked goods.


Scones can be prepared in a number of ways, though the most popular way to dress tea and scones will be with strawberry jam and clotted cream. This creates a rich and sweet dish that goes perfectly with tea, but you probably won’t want to try and dunk a scone. Instead, most people will enjoy their scones and tea together, sipping and nibbling until they are finished.

Cakes


While most people would consider a scone to be a cake, there are plenty of other cakes available that can also go with tea. Lemon cake and banana bread are very popular in tea rooms, while options like flapjacks have been becoming increasingly desirable. The type of cake you choose can be dictated by the type of tea you're drinking, and it’s a good idea to ask the person serving their suggestion.


Fruit


Fruit is one of the most popular snack foods of all time, with countless different types of fruit available for you to tuck into. Berries are great when you have a chance to sit down with your tea, though things like bananas and apples can also be very nice. Fruits are strong enough in flavor to change the taste of your tea, while the tea itself will naturally enhance the sweet taste that comes from the fruit.


As you can see, there are a lot of snacks on the market that can go very well with your next cup of tea. Of course, in reality, you can pair just about anything with a drink like this, though it is worth being careful. Options like chocolate can easily overpower the taste of tea, making it boring compared to the food you’re eating, and this is something you will want to avoid.


People have been dunking their biscuits in tea for more than 100 years in the UK. Trends like this can be seen across the globe, with the French tradition of dipping croissants into coffee being a great example of this. Of course, though, when it comes to tea and biscuits, the more you learn, the more you will have an enjoyable time.

April 05, 2021 — Alicia Avallone

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