Sure, us Brits love a cup of tea – but we bloody adore a biccie. But which one makes the best companion to a steaming mug of PG Tips? We went retro-tastic, assembled a panel of taste-testers and rated our fave classic biscuits from the ‘80s and ’90s. In the interest of transparency, we should mention that we made the decision to exclude anything that comes packaged as an individual item. No Penguins. No Wagon Wheels. And Viscounts don’t count (despite the name). They’re ones for another list…
‘It’s clogging my tonsils!’ So spoke one of our taste-testers of this curiously soft biscuit’s flaccid consistency and figgy central mulch. ‘Stodgy, cakey crap!’ yelled another through a mouth clagged up by its rationing-era texture. A small minority of Roll Heads loved the way it makes your mouth feel like someone’s filled it full of fruity quicksand, but the numbers don’t lie. This biscuit does not cut it in the twenty-first century.
It’s not easy to get excited by a biccy that’s better known as the ‘dead fly biscuit’ and which looks like someone steam-rollered mouse droppings and stuffed the resultant filth between crackers. Nor did our judging panel, with consistently low scores and only a couple of judges appreciating its ‘chew’. Sadly, there was also the odd judge who considered it to have the texture of a biscuit filled with chewing gum that’d been left to harden on a windowsill. Not a fave.
Doesn’t really taste of either malt or milk, does it? Essentially a falsehood of a biscuit: a crunchy little perjurer. Unlike the garibaldi and the fig roll, which had the odd hardcore fan to break up the haters, this biccy didn’t find a single enthusiast on the panel, racking up mediocre score after mediocre score. ‘A childhood fave, sadly outdated’, commented one judge. Well said.
There’s only one decent explanation we can think of for the name of this decidedly un-rich, non-tea-friendly biscuit. Presumably it’s a description of the consistency of your brew after dunking: given that the biccy instantly collapses feebly to the bottom of the mug where it resigns itself to a new life as beverage sand, that’s what you end up with – tea that’s rich (in crumby slush). Still, name aside, this didn’t prove a runaway hit with our taste testers. Most of them had a lot of affection for it, but on tasting, realised that it was just ‘a bit plain’.
Given the mutoid shapes and cack-handed detailing, these supposed ‘animal’ biscuits would be better named ‘Botched genetic experiment biscuits’. Or, if you’re a child: ‘MUMMY! MY PANDA’S DEFORMED!’ Still, our panel were prepared to overlook that. ‘What animal did I just eat? Fuck it – it was covered in chocolate’, commented one taster. The rest were concerned by the size. Some were bothered by their minuteness (‘you need at least five to make a mouthful’), while others saw it as a bonus (‘they’re bite-sized, which makes them healthy, right?’). Overall, they weren’t something people would be proud to take to a tea party. Much like a deformed panda.
The Willy Wonka of biscuits: without chocolate, what’s the point? Despite plenty of childhood nostalgia (minus the odd hater saying things like ‘Great. If you’re diabetic or over 50’), our judges overwhelmingly spurned this crumbly little guy and held back their points in anticipation of its chocolate-topped cousin. Treachery. Cocoa-based treachery.
Not enough jam. Jam that tastes like red superglue. A dry, filling-free circle of biscuit that hang around the heart-shaped centre like a weird jam-based incarnation of Saturn’s rings. These were the main complaints about the Jammie Dodger, which racked up a clutch of mid-table scores. Also, according to our in-depth biscuit research (reading their website), these sticky raspberry sandwiches are the favourite biscuits of Dr Who. If we made a biscuit, we’re not sure we’d be advertising it by saying: ‘People who don’t exist love this biscuit!’
As a kid, nothing said ‘party hardy’ quite like garish sugary hoops on a plastic plate. Nowadays? Yeah, kinda. Flavour-wise, they’re rock-hard discs whose synthetic topping shatters into nasty little shards upon first contact with teeth. However, our panel had such fond memories of them, they managed to rack up enough points to nearly make it into the top 20. ‘These things make me so happy!’ exclaimed one tester. Well, each to their own.
Judging by the furious arguments that raged over this biscuit, it could well be the Jeremy Corbyn of snacks. Some staunchly defended its refusal to bow to prevailing trends (‘It’s magnificent as it is!’). Others wildly decried it as out-of-step with current biscuit thinking (‘I expect more from something that’s meant to be chocolate!’). But, ultimately, its supporters’ passion wasn’t enough to get it anywhere close to the top ten. A solid biscuit. A fiercely supported biscuit. Just not one that’s to everyone’s tastes.
Look at them. Just look at their cheeky little faces. So cute! Unfortunately, they’re also winking little liars. Don’t be fooled by the happy chappy grin, there’s nothing jaunty about the flavour. ‘Tastes cheap’, commented one tester. ‘Reminds me of cheap conferences’, said another. And, in probably the best summary of how they made it into mid-table, one person had this to say: ‘Ooh, the chocolate tastes a bit budget. But boy do I love that face.’ Smile over substance.
Here’s a surprising Maryland cookies fact for you: they’ve been sold in the UK since 1956, thus making nearly 60 years of cookies that taste like someone switched the oven off too early. Weirdly, nostalgia seemed to play no role in our panel’s moderate levels of appreciation of these retro snacks. Only one person complained that they ‘taste undercooked’. The odd panelist even applauded them for being ‘crisp and crunchy’ (although Christ knows why). Mainly, though, panellists found them to be ‘okay’, ‘not terrible’ and ‘fine, I suppose’. There you have it. Maryland cookies: a bit ‘meh’.
And so begins a controversy that nearly tore our judging panel apart. To summarise: ‘Are they better with chocolate or without? Oh, that’s your opinion is it? WELL SCREW YOU, PAL!’ The odd member of our panel ranted that these were ‘The modest, more talented sibling of those arrogant chocolate bastards’. The majority, however, made comments like ‘not special enough’ and ‘just put some chocolate on it!’ It’s good. It’s just not a chocolate HobNob.
The king of the fruit biscuits. Sure, it might only be mid-table, but this dude emerged triumphant over the garibaldi, the fig roll and… actually, that’s it. Largely, we suspect it’s due to the fact that it’s so liberally coated in sugar that it could’ve been for a roll-around on the floor of a Tate & Lyle’s factory.
Fox's Crinkle Crunch
So robust that comments like ‘a good dunker’ don’t even cover it. You suspect that this dense, buttery number could be captured by the CIA, swept off to a maximum security facility, then waterboarded for weeks and its only response would be ‘Seriously, at least use a teabag!’ Its main problem, though? So similar to its cream-filled cousin, the Crunch Cream that it feels a little like you’re only getting half a biscuit.
Is it simple, buttery luxury? Or is it just a bit too plain? Opinion was divided. Some groaned ecstatically as they crunched up the crumbly, rich texture, exclaiming ‘Ooh, it makes a lovely puddingy paste in your mouth!’ However, they were in the minority, and the shortbread’s fans were brought down by a majority of tasters who thought it ‘stodgy’, or ‘dull’. And, in one extreme case: ‘So boring. I’ve got no time for this shit.’
Is it pronounced like ‘ice’? Or like ‘piece’? If you’re on the Time Out biscuit judging panel, it seems that the way you actually say it is: ‘Ooh! Coconut!’ The sugar coating we’d remembered, but the fact that it’s flavoured with the key ingredient of a Bounty? Not so much. Well done, nice biscuits. You surprised us. However the hell you pronounce your name.
Is it neon cavity insulation? Is it bizarrely dyed cardboard? Nope, it’s a biscuit whose gaudy, cheap looks do it no favours at all. ‘Way better than I remembered!’ exclaimed one panel member of this sweet, light textural experience, which has somehow gotten better with time. ‘I could eat the whole packet!’ said another. Not that they were to everyone’s taste. ‘Too much air! Way too much air!’ complained one person. A dark horse of a biscuit. Just one that’s a bit difficult to take seriously as a contender.
God, they were classy, weren’t they? Back in the day, nothing said elegance and glamour like a piece of chocolate that had been strapped atop a tough, rectangular Rich Tea. Today, though? Still pretty damned good – crunchy, classy, a generous helping of chocolate – but whisper it: there’s a problem. It’s getting increasingly hard to shake the feeling that the biscuit component is getting a little out-dated…
The only biscuit on this list that also doubles as a playground insult (with the possible exception of the Jammie Dodger). It could be that all the abuse it took as a kid explains why it’s hard as nails (in a good way). Spicy, sweet and with a texture that delighted the panel’s dunking-obsessed contingent, there was only one person with a bad thing to say about this classic. ‘Sorry, but I don’t like ginger’. Hate crime!
See our sixteenth ranked biscuit to understand how het up our panel got about the ‘chocolate v plain’ issue. The reason these babies scored so highly? They’re basically a national treasure. They’re oaty, sweet and so robust you could probably use one to hammer in a nail. Would be a crying waste of a good biscuit, though.
Oh Jaffa Cakes: you’ve shot yourself in the foot. If you discount the members of our panel who marked this down because ‘it’s a cake, not a biscuit!’, there was no-one with anything bad to say about this moist, orangey chocolate delight. At one point, it looked like it was even going to take the crown. Sadly, that name has done it no favours at all. Still one of our faves, though.
Brilliant with tea. Killer biscuit-to-chocolate ratio. So delicious you could eat a whole packet for dinner. These are the main reasons that had the Time Out panel voting them into the top ten of our fave biccies. Utter, utter classics. If only the ‘80s and ‘90s featured an even more luxurious version. Wait, what’s that? They did…?
It might be the newest biscuit included in this list (it launched in 1999), but this chewy, chocolatey little babe has wasted no time in becoming one of the most loved. ‘The strongest biscuit in the game!’ raved one panel member. ‘Flipping great!’ said another. The only real downside? It’s such a paradigm shift from the plain old digestive that it almost feels like it’s TOO high-tech. ‘Bit smug – what does it think it is, a Rolo?’ complained one tester. ‘But it’s definitely still good.’ Yes. Yes it is.
Harry Hill once dismissed them as ‘the poor, anaemic, albino cousin of the bourbon biscuit’. But it seems that the goofy comic vastly overlooked the appeal of these biccies – even if they’re so chintzy-looking you’d think they were designed to reside in a 1970s grandma’s living room. ‘It’s not just the taste! I love the pattern too!’ exclaimed one of our testers. ‘I had to stop buying multi-packs of these, because I’d eat the whole thing myself’ confessed one particularly hardcore addict. Although, frankly, we had to stop reading the comments when people started going on about their favourite way to eat them. ‘I gently pull the flaps apart and then lick out the mi…’ Okay, okay, we get it!
Crappy caff owners love them so much that the mere sight of them on a saucer will pretty much guarantee that your coffee’s going to taste like brown water. But don’t be put off: this is a vastly underrated biscuit. It’s so sweet, rich and golden that you could be eating a pack of demerara. There’s even notes of ginger in there. It’s like a biscuity brandy snap. It’s totally awesome. And, as you’d expect from its saucer-based popularity, it’s also pretty damn killer with a hot drink. ‘These definitely don’t get enough exposure!’ raved one panel member. Too right they don’t (outside of caffs).
Chocolate Viennese fingers
‘Dips spectacularly!’ ‘Beautiful!’ ‘Decadence in a finger!’ This crowd-pleasing classic inspired such rave reviews that our entire panel was willing to overlook the fact that the only finger this resembles belongs to Marvel’s ‘The Thing’ (and only after his hand has been reversed over by a steamroller). Its biscuity bits are so rich that it’d make Scrooge McDuck envious, its chocolate centre’s a chunky slab of brilliance and we could munch them until the cows come home. And then we’d send the cows away and make them come home all over again. Delicious.
Golden crunch creams
The boss. The absolute undisputed champion of biscuits. The cream filling says ‘luxury’, the biscuit’s crunch says ‘textural masterpiece’ and the doubling up of the layers says ‘dunk me, buddy – you know you want to!’ It’s a modest biscuit – it tends not to attract the sort of hyperpole lathered onto the HobNob or the Jaffa – yet it remains absolutely, totally, undeniably delicious. The only downside to them? Nah, can’t think of one. They’re rich, they’re sweet, they’re not just a biscuit – they’re a total joy.
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