The Fiver: “All right, it’s a Jammie Dodger, but I was promised tea!” Top Five Flavorful British Biscuits

It’s hard to imagine having tea without biscuits (unless you prefer scones or cucumber sandwiches, you heathen). In America, we might call these cookies, but in Britain, a cookie is often a softer baked product or what most of us think of as “drop cookies”. In modern Britain, biscuits come in all shapes and sizes, with icing or jam as well as sweet or savory flavors. Enjoyed with tea, milk, or even soda, many of these are readily available in America at British food shops or the international aisle at your local grocery store.

1. Walkers Shortbread

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Since 1898, Walkers has made shortbread, crackers, and other biscuits and presently is Scotland’s leading food exporter. The recipe for your typical shortbread biscuit is one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour. Walkers advertises that their shortbread contains no artificial flavors, colors, or additives. The butter gives it a high fat content and a crumbling texture (as well as pure deliciousness). They can come in three forms, whether as round individual biscuits, pie-shaped wedges, and slab-like fingers. To this day, Walkers has won three awards from the Queen for their exports and the company remains in the control of the Walker family.

2. Jaffa Cakes

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Named after Jaffa oranges, McVitie and Price have been making Jaffa Cakes since 1927. The biscuits tend to be small and circular shaped with a sponge cake base, orange jelly, and chocolate coating on top. McVitie’s offers Jaffa Cakes in several varieties of cartons, tubes, and snack packs, as well as mini-cakes in pods and re-sealable pouches. Over the years, the company has offered the biscuits in lemon, strawberry, and blackcurrant flavors. Additionally, Jaffa Cakes are available as mini-rolls, candy bars, and even as muffins. Surprisingly, each one only contains 1 gram of fat.

3. Digestives

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The term “digestive” for biscuits comes from the heavy amount of baking soda used in their recipes thought to aid in digestion. Made both by Cadbury and McVitie’s (amongst others), digestives are typically made from coarse wheat flour, sugar, malt, and other ingredients. Sometimes they may include whey, oatmeal, and milk. Digestives come in a variety of flavors whether plain, with caramel, or covered in chocolate. In a bit of a cross-over, sometimes people will treat digestives like crackers by adding cheese, and they will even appear in cracker selection packages. Digestive biscuits often form the base for cheesecakes.

4. Wagon Wheels

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The history of wagon wheels spans the British Empire. Canadian Garry Weston created them at the age of 22 when he worked for his father’s business in Australia and introduced them at the 1948 Olympia World Foods Fair. As you might guest, the name comes from the Western wagon wheels with Wild West films rising in popularity after World War II. In the United Kingdom, Wagon Wheels are made by Burton’s, who claim on their website that people consume over 125 million worldwide. As for their makeup, they can best be described as s’mores in biscuit form, with the biscuit itself covered in a marshmallow layer and topped with chocolate.

5. Jammie Dodgers

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Also made by Burton’s Foods, Jammie Dodgers are a shortbread biscuit sandwich with a raspberry jam filling. Burton’s advertising claims that Jammie Dodgers are the most popular kid’s biscuits in the United Kingdom and 40% of the year’s sales in 2009 were consumed by adults. Presently, Burton’s offers Jam & Custard as well as Banana & Toffee versions. Jammy Dodgers are also part of popular culture, with them being the favorite biscuit of Jonny Keogh on “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps”, the name of Rita’s ship in “Flushed Away”, and as a fake self-destruct button for the TARDIS on “Doctor Who”. (They also happen to be this writer’s personal favorite.)

What’s your favorite British Biscuit? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

  1. avatarKath says

    When my English relatives come to the U.S. to visit, they always talk about HobNobs as being their favorites. They hold up well to dunking, an important part of having tea and biscuits. My personal faves, which I discovered in the 1960s when our family lived in Yorkshire, are definitely the chocolate-coated (milk or dark are fine thank you) McVitie’s Digestives! This fun site goes all out in the biscuit-and-tea analysis department: http://www.nicecupofteaandasitdown.com/

  2. avatarSusan says

    I love Jaffa Cakes, the closest I have found in Canada is Pimms. Oh, and I used to like Dominoes (I think that is what they were called)

    • avatarHJ says

      Strictly speaking, Jaffa Cakes are just that – cakes, not biscuits.

      This was proven in court after HMRC wanted to charge VAT on them (like biscuits) but McVities argued that they were cakes.

      The killer argument was that cakes go hard when you leave them out of the time, whereas biscuits go soft.

      I’m not much of a fan of this list anyway. Hob Nobs are better and so are Garibaldi biscuits. Wagon Wheels are truly terrible – coated with chocolate flavour coating, not actually chocolate.

  3. avatarTina says

    HobNobs all the way. Just looking at the fat and calorie count on the package could clog your arteries enough to give you a heart attack but what a way to go!

  4. avatarGarry Jantzen says

    If you can find them Borders GINGER (yes, that’s what your mouth shouts!) and Dark Chocolate biscuits! YUMMM. Hobnobs if you can’t!

  5. avatarTeena says

    HobNobs plain or with dark or milk chocolate. McV Digestives plain or with dark or milk chocolate, if I am asking the family as a whole everyone loves Jaffa Cakes, but I agree they are cakes not biscuits… And thanks to 11 I have to have my Jammy Dodgers now at the every season premier of Doctor Who, even if I have to buy them online! (online purchase of Jelly Babies didn’t travel well.. they were a Jelly Blob by the time they got here, looked like melted down dopplegangers) Now please tell me how you managed to get listed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide! ;p

  6. avatarGerry says

    Rich Tea (especially those made by McVities) is, and always will be, my favourite biscuit. Regrettably, they are a tad difficult to obtain absolutely fresh in South Carolina, but even so, those sold by World Market are still far, far better than “cookies”!

  7. avatarLOU says

    Custard creams for me, please! I will accept Jammie Dodgers and dark chocolate McVities as well (if available).

  8. avatarLauren says

    Jammie Dodgers are my favorite, with Jaffa Cakes coming in a very close second. Custard Creams are good for dunking in tea.

  9. avatar says

    I live in Canada right on the border with Michigan (5 Minutes from my home) my very favorites are Chocolate Bourbons biscuits which I’ve never seen here and light & dark digestives. Light digestives & Jaffa cakes I can buy at Meijer stores in Michigan and dark digestives I can get at Loblaw stores in Canada

  10. avatar says

    Maybe someone can help me. When I lived in the UK in the 1970s, our local bakery—baking not done on the premises, but lorried in—carried a confection that was comprised of two chocolate meringues with a creamy chocolate filling between them—my fave!!! The meringues were chewy and stuck to my teeth and the filling was delish. Never asked what they were, just pointed to them. Also loved tha dark, hearty British bread—but lacking preservatives, had to put it in the fridge—unless you liked mold!!!.

  11. avatarPam Stoermer says

    Hob Nobs, plain or especially with dark chocolate. I also love Mr. Kipling’s cakes …the one that is a squared log & when you cut it open it has a pink & white checkered center, all covered in marzipan! I forget the name but they are SO good

    • avatarMinerva says

      I can honestly say that MrKipling cakes are in my humble opinion…an abomination!

      The chequered/marzipan confection sounds very like Battenburg cake, which though fiddly to make is marvellous when home made.

  12. avatarElizabeth says

    I was not very impressed with wagon wheels. Chocolate Hobnobs all the way.

  13. avatarkristin says

    Mc Vite’s plain or now called dark chocolate biscuits the best and Hovis are a treat

  14. avatar says

    How about all the Peak Frean’s biscuits? I believe Peak Freans originated in England. I prefer their Digestive cookies to McVites. I love most of their biscuits. Walker’s shortbread is wonderful and we can buy there in BC, Canada. My grandmother used to buy Grey Dunn carmel wafers, which I believe also originated in the United Kingdom. Does anyone here know? I believe she bought them in Vancouver from the Woodward’s Department Store grocery department. We never see them anymore. Of course, Woodwards went out of business and the old store in Vancouver was demolished. Such a shame to lose our heritage building, but it became a problem with squatters etc.

  15. avatarCJ says

    It’s a bit like saying which of your children you love the most, isn’t it? Thanks to World Market, most Mc Vitie products are easily available here on the central coast of California. I always go Hobnobs first!
    Because of the name, I really must find some Jammie Dodgers!