Have you ever wondered what kind of food to serve at a tea party? While there are teatime staples such as miniature sandwiches and tarts that are wonderful to nosh on, biscuits are historically tea’s best friend!
Whether you’re throwing a tea party yourself or just looking to learn more about the fabulous world of tea, it can be fun to know which teas pair well with which biscuits. Join us as we learn more about the wonderful world of biscuits and tea.
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Where Do Tea and Biscuits Come From?
Tea and biscuits are an old English pairing that dates back to the 1700s. If you find it a bit surprising that tea and biscuits (known as cookies in America) took so long to come together, there’s a reason for that.
The English ate biscuits as early as the 14th century, but they were a far cry from the biscuits we know and love today. Rather, these biscuits were savory and extremely dense. In fact, this type of biscuit was a precursor for hardtack!
These biscuits were typically eaten at the end of a large meal to help the food digest better. However, this changed in the 17th century.
In the 1660s, Britain conquered the West Indies and installed massive sugar plantations. Before this, sugar was a highly expensive import reserved for only the fanciest of occasions. Hence, salty and savory biscuits.
Not only did sugar become more accessible, but French influences began sweeping across the culinary world. Bakers guilds began to dissipate as more and more English families chose to make their own recipes at home. This is when biscuits began to evolve, taking on the many shapes and sizes that we know and love today.
In the 18th century, tea entered English society and soon these sweet new biscuits were no longer just digestive aids — they were also a delicious accompaniment to a cup of tea. Around this time, traditional savoy and ratafia biscuits were invented.
By the 1800s, there was a biscuit for everything, including dessert, tea, post-meal wine, and more. Who knew that so much history went into a little afternoon treat?
Why Dunk Biscuits in Tea?
Part of the English tea time tradition involves dunking tea biscuits into tea. While this may seem a bit odd, there’s a science to it.
Many traditional tea biscuits are actually designed for dunking. These biscuits tend to soften up when dunked into the hot tea, making them much easier to eat.
Dunking also enhances the flavor of a biscuit, particularly biscuits coated in chocolate or high in sugar. Some tea drinkers even enjoy the bit of cookie residue at the bottom of a well-dunked cuppa, saying it makes for a delicious cookie-flavored tea.
Whatever your reason for dunking, this much is certain: Dunking biscuits in tea is a tale as old as time and a lovely way to enjoy a traditional cuppa.
5 Lovely Tea and Biscuit Pairings
While the English have biscuits galore to choose from, there are a few biscuits that lend themselves particularly well to tea. Read on for a few of our favorites.
Chocolate Digestives and English Breakfast
Traditional digestive biscuits have been around since the late 1800s. Although the name may seem a bit strange, it is attributed to the amount of baking soda in these cookies.
Baking soda can act as an antacid, but these cookies aren’t likely to have any noticeable effects in that regard. Where this type of biscuit used to be marketed as an after-meal digestive helper, it is now simply a delicious tea companion.
Chocolate digestives are simply digestives that are coated in chocolate. These simple cookies are light and flavorful, and the sweet chocolate is a wonderful pairing with English breakfast teas.
English Breakfast tea is a black tea known for its strength, typically taken with cream and sugar to offset its strong taste. When paired with chocolate digestives, the tea and biscuits together practically melt in your mouth.
Plus, the chocolate coating on the digestives melts and soaks into the biscuit. Talk about a lovely pair!
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Rich Teas and French Breakfast
Rich tea biscuits are very similar to digestives. Both are light and flavorful cookies with minimal ingredients, and they taste fairly similar.
The main difference between these two biscuits is that rich teas snap when broken, whereas digestives crumble. However, both biscuits are designed to stay together when dunked.
Rich teas are the original tea biscuit, and they were even called Tea Biscuits in the 17th century among upper-class English families. These biscuits were one of the first to be paired with tea and quickly became a staple in the English afternoon tea tradition.
Rich teas make for a blissful pairing with a French breakfast tea because they are so light in flavor that the taste of the tea easily comes through when the biscuit is dunked. This is important because this type of tea is lovely and subtle.
Bourbon Creams and Strawberry Tea
Bourbon creams are delicious cookie sandwiches that can really pair well with any tea. The outer layers consist of chocolate biscuits, while the inner layer is thick chocolate cream. This cream holds the sandwich together, even when dunked.
These biscuits are so rich in chocolate, and they pair beautifully with tart strawberry tea. Strawberry tea comes in many flavor varieties, but almost all of these varieties have the same heavy strawberry taste and delicate tartness.
These decadent biscuits are typically available at many grocery stores, but homemade cookies always taste delicious — especially when there’s buttercream involved. If you’d like to take a crack at your own bourbon creams, try this recipe. Feel free to spice it up, and make it your own!
Adding a little strawberry flavoring or layering strawberry pieces inside the buttercream would be a lovely way to strengthen this pairing even more.
Shortbread and Ginger Tea
Shortbreads are traditional Scottish tea biscuits that get their name from their exceptional density and sweetness. These cookies are made for dunking because they quickly soak up the tea flavor, but they are likely to leave a few crumbs in your cup.
Known for their sweet and buttery flavor, shortbreads are a lovely match for ginger tea – specifically, Beach House Teas Beautiful. This rich ginger blend also features tastes of lemon, rose, and jasmine for a light floral taste that is sure to complement your sweet shortbread.
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Custard Creams and Chamomile
Custard creams are the vanilla version of bourbon creams. Like their chocolate cousins, custard creams consist of two vanilla cookies sandwiching a layer of thick vanilla buttercream.
Custard creams are light and sweet, and they’re widely popular in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Being so sweet and tasty, there’s no lovelier pairing for this biscuit than a soothing cup of chamomile tea.
Chamomile tea such as Steep & Sip Chamomile Cuddles tastes lightly of apples and honey, and it has a smooth consistency that pairs beautifully with custard creams. Since chamomile is also a great tea for sleep, this pairing is a delightful way to wind down from your day and get ready for bed.
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Wrapping It All Up
Tea and biscuits are a match made in heaven, and this pairing has been around for hundreds of years. Since biscuits are made to be dunked in tea, it can be extremely satisfying to strategically pair your tea and biscuits.
For more tea pairings, head on over to our blog — and don’t forget to follow us on social media!
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