Biscuit Dunking seems to be our nation’s favourite pastime (next to cricket and quietly queuing pointlessly for hours on end) and I was recently asked to talk about why dunking your digestives into a mug of steaming hot tea is not the “done thing” from an etiquette perspective.
A recent poll suggested that out of 600 people who were quizzed about their own personal biscuit behaviour a surprising 52% thought it was unacceptable behaviour… which doesn’t quite match the online hype that I recently witnessed when I mentioned it through my own personal Twitter & Facebook.
Some biscuits were simply made for dunking, such as biscotti, or the thin wafers filled with cream you might be offered in your local coffee shop. In fact, some of my followers told me about their other dunking weapons, such as chocolate bars, croissants and even toast, with only one or two people advising me that it wasn’t ok to dunk – It certainly wasn’t a 50/50 split on this important and sweet debate. I also found a biscuit dunking appreciation society with dunking advice if it’s your preferred option when drinking a cuppa with a pack of malted milks!
Well, firstly I had to stop telling everybody that my weapon of choice is in fact the trusty Jammie Dodger… Shhhhhhhh, I’m not supposed to admit that I do sit at home on a cold and wet night and dunk my digestives, it’s not big and it’s not clever – honestly!
So why is dunking your biscuit such an etiquette faux pas exactly?
Amusingly, my younger sister works in a residential home and she recently told me that when they wash up the cups after elevenses each day, most mugs are at least an inch filled with tea and biscuit remnants, of which are not nice to be emptying out. She also advised that it’s not always hot drinks used for their biscuit dunking, the posher residents dip them into orange squash – interesting and mildly entertaining in one!
A tearoom in Brighton actually asks people to leave if their customers dunk their biscuits into their teacups. I must say that I actually quite like that rule and may contact them to geek out about our mutual appreciation for afternoon tea etiquette, I wonder if the owner is in fact a “secret dunker” himself? – I think he might be!
Here are a few biscuit dunking etiquette tips that I taught the lovely Alan Titchmarsh on ITV this week, of which you can see on ITV and ITV Player on Wednesday 13th November between 3pm – 4pm (video clip to follow with a little luck) on the daily “Ding Dong” with my dunking enemy and the very talented TV presenter, Mr Jamie East:
1) It’s simply a messy game. If you use a chocolate coated biscuit, you get floating chocolate in your drink, if your biscuit dissolves before you get to eat it, then you have crumbs bobbing around making your brew lumpy and looking like an alligators swamp as a result – it just isn’t elegant. Besides, nobody likes the taste of a soggy biscuit – surely?! It falls apart in your mouth changes the texture, it just feels plain wrong. Then there’s the mess it makes if you dunk and release, sticky fingers, remnants on the table or floating in the cup… oh lordy!
2) Our Victorian friends, as a classic example, would frown upon biscuit dunking as a children’s pastime or even working class etiquette… not something that somebody with good manners and class would be seen to be partaking in – controversial!
3) Think of the baker or hostess offering you their stunning homemade biscuits, lovingly made and adorning their afternoon tea table. To dunk them would be the ultimate offence, never mind the mess you may well leave behind in the bottom of your teacup – they will most certainly be cursing your name as they wash up later on, scooping out the leftovers with a teaspoon, not pleasant at all.
4) It is not very ladylike or gentlemanly to play with your food in the company of others. In fact, it looks very unglamorous when trying to fish for half of your biscuit in front of your fellow diners – your teaspoon is not there to fish out floating biscuits, it’s simply there to stir your milk or sugar.
6) It should be a guilty pleasure – one that is enjoyed secretly, that way you can do it how you like and nobody needs to think anything else of you, making you a polite and well mannered diner in the company of others!
7) And lastly, consider this. If you are a frequent tea or coffee drinker, how many biscuits would you get through as a result of drinking lots of cups or pots of tea?!
If you are insistent on moistening a custard cream with your cup of rosey lea, then to be polite about it, take a bite to enjoy the biscuit, then drink some tea if you must have both together.
Although, saying that, a mouthful of food when drinking tea is not acceptable either – Oh the rules of afternoon tea, you ALL need a couple of hours with Miss Sue Flay ; )
What are your preferences on “biscuit dunking”? Are you all for it or are you against it?
And what are your reasons and motives behind your answers? – please do get interactive with a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts and findings, to dunk or not to dunk?
You can also read the rest of Miss Sue Flay’s “Lost Art Of Etiquette” guides by clicking here.