TO DUNK OR NOT TO DUNK THAT IS THE QUESTION
Shakespeare will probably be turning in his grave to think that his quote from Hamlet has been transformed into a question about whether it is right to dunk biscuits in tea or coffee; but for fear of paraphrasing him yet further: is it better to suffer a soggy biscuit or to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous flavour combinations?
Okay, I promise it stops there, but the question remains: are you a dunker or a dunk avoider? And what is dunking all about anyway?
Dunking is essentially the practice of taking a biscuit or bread and dipping it in tea, coffee or some other beverages in order to imbibe the biscuit with extra flavours in the beverage. It has been a part of human practice for millennia as it was first reported that the ancient Romans softened their hard unleavened wafer biscuits called “bis coctum” in wine. The Royal Navy in the 16th century issued their sailors with a hard long lasting baked biscuit called hard tack. These tasteless treats were softened by dropping them into barrels of beer. So is it really all that surprising that we dunk biscuits into tea and coffee? It’s in the national make up of the British, but not just us as the Australians have something similar but at the same time altogether not at all the same…it’s called Tim Tam Slam. The Aussies always keen to do something unusual undertake ‘tea sucking’ through a biscuit. The physics of this practice are quite unusual and have even generated academic papers. Essentially a biscuit is dunked in tea and is porous. Capillary action draws the liquid into the intestices between the crumbs and is ten sucked up the drinker. A similar practice in the United Kingdom involves Penquin biscuits and I have been told is a taste sensation with a good strong coffee as the base.
In South Africa and India forget biscuits and go for rusks for dunking, whilst in the United States it’s all about doughnuts…well it would be of course…and they take it so seriously that one of the world’s largest chain of doughnut manufacturers is also named after the practice…Dunkin Donuts.
So that’s the history, but does dunking in tea or coffee actually improve the taste of the biscuit…all the clever scientific people say yes, particularly when you use the UK’s favourite biscuit to dunk…McVities chocolate digestive.
There is also something of a game that can be played, but it can get rather messy. You need a mug of freshly brewed Builders Tea and a pack of biscuits. You then lower you biscuit into the tea and let it soak in there before trying to calculate the exact moment before the biscuit dissolves, when you whip it up into your mouth and enjoy the blissful union of biscuit and tea combined.