Posted in Kafevend Blog

Our topic for today is likely to strike horror into the hearts of some and fondness into the hearts of others. We all enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and most will admit to cravings for biscuits now and again, but to dunk or not to dunk, that is the question!

Back when biscuits were hard enough to knock nails into walls – we're thinking of the hard tack served on board ship in centuries past – it's likely the sailors had to dunk them in their grog for quite some considerable time. We wondered if this could in fact be regarded as the origin of dunking in 'The Biscuit Back Story'.

Although it's a custom frowned upon by some, one can't help but wonder if their distaste is a result of good manners, or simply an aversion to the risk of losing half a biscuit to the murky depths of the cup. Let's face it, dunking biscuits is a fine art and safe dunking time varies from biscuit to biscuit. Chocolate coated varieties of the Digestive and the Hobnob are particular favourites; the slightly melted chocolate tastes even better. The spicy flavour of a Ginger Nut is also enhanced, but despite their reputation for being one of the hardest biscuits on offer, you can soon find yourself trying to rescue a soggy portion with a teaspoon; you have been warned!

In fact, tests show conclusively that the most robust biscuit for dunking of all is the good old Rich Tea. Dr. Stuart Farrimond, science communicator, lecturer and former hospital doctor, conducted experiments on the UK's best loved brands to discover which would hold out the longest in tea and coffee and then looked at the science behind the results. The close texture of the Rich Tea, as opposed to the much looser texture of something like a Hobnob, was a key factor at play. It also turns out that it's the high sugar content of a Ginger Nut that makes it risky for anything other than a short dunk. The good news for chocolate digestive fans is that despite its loose oaty consistency, the chocolate coating helps to keep the biscuit together for longer.

Dr. Stu, as he's commonly known, has pointed out that the reason so many people like to dunk their biscuits in a hot drink is because our taste buds respond better to warmer temperatures. In addition, as we discovered in 'How does coffee smell to you?' our sense of taste relies heavily on our sense of smell. The warmer the foods we chew, the more flavour aroma molecules are released and on reaching the nasal cavity, create a better taste sensation. A good example would be chocolate – how much richer does it taste if you let it melt in your mouth, thereby giving it time to warm up, than if you just quickly chew and swallow it? And this must be the reason that biscuits and cookies taste so good straight from the oven.

So are there any other aspects to take into consideration when you're preparing to dunk? Well, whether you prefer tea or coffee, with or without milk really doesn't matter. However, there is one other critical influencing factor and that's the temperature of your drink. Unsurprisingly, the hotter the cuppa, the quicker your chosen biscuit is likely to disintegrate. So just remember, patience is a virtue!

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