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Survival of the McVittest

It’s week 9, and exam season is fast approaching. My dissertation is due in t-minus 25 days, David has a 2,500 word essay coming up, and The Saint is all-consuming (as per) — we’re the busiest of bees and have barely seen anyone barring our respective flatmates… So we’ve decided to spend three hours ranking biscuits.

This, ladies and gentleman, is journalism. We’ve thrust open Granny’s metaphorical biscuit cupboard door in the interest of helping you plan your perfect exam week tea break. We’ve whipped out the doilies, popped Fife Kingdom radio (105.4 if you’re interested) on in the background, stuffed tissues up-sleeves, and donned our finest knitwear. Oh, and the teapot is in the shape of the pub from Emmerdale. The set up could not be more perfect.

We’ve planned this experiment perfectly, naturally in the name of science. We’ve identified our criteria: crumbliness, dunkability (5 seconds), sogginess, sweetness and scent. Bear with for endless biscuit-related neologisms. We’ve also taken the liberty of assigning each biscuit a university degree and overall vibe. There’s no reason for the last one, to be honest, we just thought it would be funny.

Right, let’s get into the matter at hand.

First up, the humble rich tea. At 70p for 31 biscuits, on the surface it seems like a bargain. At first whiff, it’s a very generically biscuit-y scent, with notes of Tesco own brand and a hint of something else: could it be despair? Little crumb action, but very snappy — it breaks in half on first impact and is genuinely dryer than the Sahara desert. It’s not suitable for dunking; there was little if any structural integrity following a five second submersion. Honestly, chewing on a wet tea bag would have been more pleasant. On the taste front, it was neither here nor there. A disappointing vessel at best. Vibes wise, it’s giving over-65 bus pass. Your favourite pub is probably the Wheypat, you know pi to at least 25 places, and a tangfastic might just kill you. It’s a 2:2 in Sustainable Development. 3.14/10.

Palettes thoroughly cleansed, we’re on to Digestives. Ye Olde Faithful if you will. Less bang for your buck though — £1.80 for a measly 24 of them. Strong biscuity scent, but in the best, most nostalgic way possible. Think primary school breaktime with a digestive and a glass of milk. A whiff on one of these and you’re transported to Grandma’s collection of biscuit tupperware, where biscuits resided in harmony with one another, where a digestive could then become a Ginger Nut. And what does the digestive say about you, our sweet biscuit indulging friend? So glad you asked! You run every day, love Take That, and ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams will almost definitely be the first dance at your wedding. Never one to turn down an evening at BrewCo, you study English Lit and will be getting a 2:1 (having written a dissertation on Virginia Woolf’s oeuvre). In the wise words of (English Lit studying) David, “you’ll get somewhere, but not far”. 6/10.

At number 3, we’re really drilling down to the heart of the issue. Onto the hobnob. A quick sniff takes you straight back to rummaging around the bottom of your Great Aunt Sally’s biscuit tin, searching for the only non-broken option. Let’s be honest here people, the Hobnob is the mature option. Sophisticated, oat-based (healthqueen), McVities’ have truly outdone themselves. Despite the delightfully golden-syrupy odour, at least one point has to be deducted for the fact it’s a bit too crumbly before you’ve got to any of the good stuff. Also, they linger in the back of your throat, inducing a highly unattractive coughing fit (not good if you are trying to impress your library crush). Onto dunkage: no notes. A perfect 10 — retaining all structure, and not succumbing to the dreaded sog. I cannot think of four words that sum up this delicacy more perfectly than ‘National Trust Parking Permit’. It tells me you were awarded a Blue Peter badge when you were younger, are probably in a serious relationship (though David assures me there’s a hint of mummy issues lying under the surface), and you really, really want a cocker spaniel when you grow up. You do Modern History, are currently on a 16.8 and love a skinny scarf. 8/10.

Ah, the Custard Cream, admirable in its ability to be both custardy and creamy. A biscuit whose idiosyncrasy in its alliteration makes it a strong and convincing contender (hello National 5 persuasive essay!). Alas, upon opening, a custard cream casualty arose with a corner missing. Moving on from that scare, initial impressions are that she is sweet…very sweet, in both taste and scent, 3 max. Now we speak of crumbs (I mean this alliteration is really pushing it). Crumbs: little crumbage, appearing strong. Rising to the challenge of dunking, she falters immediately. Sludge. Snail mucus. Genuinely felt like participating in a bush tucker trial. Frankly, soggier than puff pastry on a steak pie. Vibes-wise, we are big fans of the design, she loves William Morris (who she fondly refers to as WilMo). She is fun in the talking stage, a strong contender for university matrimony; yet this all disappears upon a few glasses of rosé and while peering over her while she's slumped on the pavement, you’ll ponder as to how you were led so astray. She’s found in Aikman’s on the reg, and when we say Aikman’s, she is on the steps, sobbing uncontrollably in a furry coat. I mean she really is deceptive. Degree is affirmatively Art History (and Millie is allowed to say this about her fellow peers). But sadly, some biscuits just aren’t made for tea, just like you and your ex. And yet, a cupboard staple you’ll always invite over and always deal with the consequences the morning after. 6.5/10.

Numero 5 and we end on the Bourbon. Some people love their Bourbon Creams and no judgement, just an observation. A fellow opponent who bears cream and yet has double the breakage. We blame its terrifyingly rectangular shape; not a good start, Sir Bourbon. We glaze over them with our noses and the scent serves nothing. Nothing. But everyone has their flaws, so we move on to crumbage. A scrummy crumble surprisingly, but just a bit dry. With two very serious journalists nearing the end of their journalistic prime, we hold on to the Bourbon together for the dunk. A biscuit sog we accept with good jest; integrity is there. The cream melts slightly — yum. Like its custard cream cousin, it is just a tad sweet and scores a 2 on the soggy scale. Thus we lay them down and prepare our conclusions. Vibes: will stop you in the street and say, “we MUST get coffee”. You will not get coffee. David notes that they’re most definitely not a hugger, while Millie chimes in to say, “you’ll probably have good drunken conversations though”. Like a custard cream, they will overshare but will reserve this exclusively for the smoking area where they will whip out their Marlboro Golds. Appears tough, but aww, they’re just as soft as any of us. Degree is somewhere in the STEM region; we assign Physics but are open to change. In the words of the late Len Goodman, “SEVEN!”

Crumbs strewn everywhere, we pack the biscuits into their respective metaphorical tupperware alongside our carefree procrastinations. Tea and biscuits…biscuits and tea. A pairing which will solve exam stress in the most effective manner. From our findings, we can conclude that the perfect biscuit requires an equilibrium of crumbliness and sweetness if it is to pair well with a cuppa. The hobnob has this aplenty. Happy tea-breaking (it’s healthier than smoking).

Illustration by Darcey Bateson

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