Australia, the land of opportunity, a continent and a country. Yes it’s very far away, and yes one wonders as to the quality of the drinking water, but really in these dark economic times it doesn’t hurt to look further afield and wonder of other rich, more prosperous markets. Notionally I understood the place to be somewhat English and therefore likely to be keen on that most wondrous of things – biscuits. Here’s a place, (I thought) with room and an appetite for my particular brand of consumer advice. It was therefore with fond farewell that I decided to take this show on the road and bring Biscuitswin to an international audience.
Now there’s a few things that you need to understand about Australia before we delve a little into their biscuit habits. First, they’ll tell you that whatever you mention, they’ve either: won, invented or attempted to barbeque; only one of which is likely to be true. Second, they’ll warn you about the wildlife, whether fictitious or actual, in a nonchalant fashion which conveys absolute confidence that it will never happen to them but probably will to you, (as an aside to this point, if someone mentions Dropbears resort immediately to the London Olympics – they’re taking the piss, you’re listing gold medals). Finally, in my case at least, they’ll start recalling epic tales of Tim Tams, the nations favorite biscuit: their straw like qualities, their utter originality, and an absolute assurance that you’ve never tasted anything like it. I didn’t even have to buy any, they were waiting for me on arrival with a suggestion of a review. I get a lot of that.
So, for any non-Australian reader, what is a Tim Tam?
As you can see they’re a largely chocolate based item, about 4 cm long and half a centimeter thick, they’re also light; suspiciously light. The theory stands that you take a small bite from both ends and use it as a crude straw through which to drink Tea. If you’ve read my thoughts on dunking and Tea more generally, you can understand my immediate wariness.
The packet sizes are on the generous size, and the Tim Tams themselves are pretty massive. As a rule of thumb I’d normally suggest that if a biscuit can’t rest on the edge of a saucer it’s failed the acid test. We’re not dealing with biscuits here, these are biscuit bars.
Anyway, even if they were a little gratuitous in their proportions, I had to give the straw thing a go although I chose instead a nice cup of Coffee rather than hot, tainted water. Well, what a bloody performance! I’ve put less effort into packing for a camping holiday that undertaking this palava – Coffee and Tim Tams to hand I sat at a cleared table hunkered carefully over the cup. Then, it’s 2 *mini bites* time so you have any biscuit left to grip before the horrible, rapidly melting, slurping disaster gets underway. Quickly your hands are covered with chocolate before the burning begins and it all slides gracefully into your now ruined coffee. What am I doing, (you think)? Why do I have chocolate all over one hand, all around my mouth and now on all the nearby surfaces; how did I end up at this irritating juncture? And that’s when it all becomes obvious – they’re taking the piss aren’t they, nobody actually does this? The straw technique barely works and you look like a 10 month old child attempting to eat a Creme Egg.
What of the Tim Tams themselves then? The chocolate is fine, the filling is fine, and the sheer quantity has got to be a good thing, but really it’s a pretty underwhelming dining experience for a ‘nation’s favorite biscuit’. Unfortunately that’s not all – I’ve seen Tim Tams somewhere before. Actually that’s not strictly accurate, I’ve sent them pretty much everywhere before – birthday parties, village fete’s, conferences, lunch boxes, my mum’s cupboards, your mum’s cupboards; they’re not an original concept; they’re actually Penguins. That’s right, one of the most ubiquitous biscuits bars in all history. Yes they’re not individually wrapped and yes, there’s the smokescreen of the straw thing, but anyone with working eyes, taste and of reasonably sound mind, knows that it’s another classic case of Australian ‘invention’.
I suppose it’s a pity, I wanted to like Australia’s favorite biscuit, I really did, but after the straw fiasco and the creeping realisation that they’re a rebranded Penguin, it’s got to be a score of nil points. In answer to my original question then – ‘Tim Tam or flim flam’?