If you haven’t eaten Rich Tea biscuits yet, it is probably because you never visited the UK, Ireland or the Isle of Man, where they are a tradition. Below, you will find a little history about Rich Tea biscuits, explaining what they are? Then, you will find a recipe which you can use, if you would like to try Rich Tea biscuits.
Rich Tea Biscuit: A Brief History
Rich Tea are sweet biscuits. Its main ingredients include wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar and malt extract. They come all the way from the 17th Century, where they were developed in Yorkshire. At first, they were called Tea Biscuits and exclusive to the upper classes that ate them as a light snack between meals (at tea time). They loved them because they were perfect for dunking into their tea, thanks to their consistency and plain flavour.
McVities: A Brand Representing Britain
Today, there are various brands of rich tea biscuits. In fact, most supermarkets sell them under their own brand’s name, and there are various varieties of them, known under the name Rich Tea Creams as well as a finger variety which are two biscuits filled with vanilla cream between them.
But McVitie’s still remain the number one manufacturer in the country. This brand is so well known and loved in the UK, that a study indicated there were 52 biscuits from McVities being consumed every second of the day, around the country. That is before and after tea, as snacks, between meals… basically at any point during the day!
These biscuits are so popular that there was a big controversy around them in 2009. The Prime Minister at the time, Gordon Brown, refused to answer the question of a journalist who asked him what his favourite McVitie’s biscuit flavour was. They called it the “Biscuitgate”!
The Appearance of the Rich Tea Biscuits
The one thing that really differentiates the Rich Tea Biscuit to others, like the McVitie’s Digestive, is that when you break it into pieces, it snaps, where the other crumbles. Otherwise, its appearance is very similar to most biscuits, in terms of shape and colour.
The other fact that distinguishes the Rich Tea biscuits, is that once dunked into liquid, it goes soft but does not lose its original shape. That is why this biscuit is so popular. Just like bread, it absorbs the liquid and keeps it inside, until you place it in your mouth. Be careful: If it gets too heavy with liquid, parts of it will fall into the cup, and you will then have to fish it or drink it, as you drain the cup.
History of the Recipe and Preparation of the Rich Tea Biscuits
The best known recipe is the one from McVities, which was conceived by Alexander Grant in 1892. There was a precedent version to this one however, which was baked by Chef Keryn Knight for the 1st Earl of Strafford.
Today, the Rich Tea biscuits by McVities are being produced at a rhythm of 27 million per day in Harlesden, a location northwest of London. It is the largest biscuit factory in Europe, where 550 employees currently work.
International Versions of Rich Tea Biscuits
In America, there are countless versions of the Rich Tea biscuits. Some are quite close to shortbread cookies, making them very distant cousin, since the Rich Tea biscuits are closer to crackers. In America, as in France, they are often of rectangular shape, whereas in the UK they are generally round, like the shape of the McVitie’s.
The Rich Tea Biscuit Flavour
It is the various sugars that are part of the recipe that gives the Rich Tea biscuits its unique flavour (maltose, sucrose, glucose and a bit of salt). The Rich Tea Fingers have grown to surpass the popularity of the round ones, probably because they are easier to eat. Other versions have also seen the light of day, some with chocolate coating or cream in the middle.
Rich Tea Biscuits Recipe
80g Caster Sugar
240g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
0.5tsp Vanilla Extract
Start by preheating the oven at 190c. In a bowl, place the caster sugar, flour, baking powder and butter. Mix it together by using your fingers until it gets to be similar to breadcrumb, in terms of texture.
Add the 1tbsp of milk and 0.5tsp of vanilla extract, and knead into firm dough. Roll it out so that it gets to 3-4mm thickness.
Use a shape cutter around 7 to 8cm in diameter (round). Cut out as many biscuits as possible from the dough.Place the biscuits on a baking sheet, not too far from one another as they don’t spread much, if at all.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 9 minutes, or until light golden. Remove them from the oven and allow cooling down, as they will crisp up.