The ‘richness’ of the Rich Tea Biscuit remains a mystery, howbeit great sages have explained it thus: first, that it originates from the county of Yorkshire which is richly famed for its teas; second, it was associated with the wealthy, having been contrived as something for the upper crust to peck at between meals; third, the late lamented Sir Terence Wogan did once describe it as the Lord of Biscuits. Still, overall it does seem a tad… bland.
Nowadays the Rich Tea is less associated with the life of Riley and more with the life of, well, anybody who’s spent any time in Britain. Over the years I’d got into the habit of thinking of it as a standard, inoffensive, community filler of the biscuit world – the patron biscuit of mass catering on a budget – but having made myself eat three or four in succession to get the shot below I was surprised to find the experience pleasanter than anticipated (although I still can’t say I’m a major fan).
Both its friends and foes agree that the Rich Tea is more palatable when dipped in a cup of cha and that there’s definitely an art to the dipping process; the Rich Tea is not a biscuit for amateur dunkers as there’s a high chance you’ll lose it if you dip it too long. There are parallels with the sacrament of baptism, but this species is pretty Anglican when it comes to full immersion (an honour reserved for non-conformists and ginger nuts).
And the moral of this biscuit? Just as the goodness of the Rich Tea is most apparent when you hold its feet in hot water, so there are some qualities in the spiritual armoury that only appear under pressure. Love can exist without hatred, but courage can’t exist without some degree of risk (‘grace under fire’, Hemingway called it). Forgiveness is perhaps the best and hardest of these, but endurance also counts for something. The silence of the medieval commentators is telling but I suspect it may well have been the Rich Tea Shakespeare’s Henry V was talking about when he said: ‘We would not seek this biscuit as we are, / Nor, as we are, we say we will not shun it.’
I’ve included a few pictures of the Rich Tea in its natural habitat (the one on the top left is from Alamby). If you don’t have access to a Country Pile combine your McVitie’s Rich Tea with even richer tea from Yorkshire and a mental romp through Blandings Castle.
Which of the following best describes your feelings towards the Rich Tea biscuit:
(1) ‘Rich Tea? Ooh, I don’t mind if I do…’ Try this master class on the art of dunking.
(2) ‘I’d rather eat my own eyeballs.’ This article will confirm your prejudices (although you might want to look away if you’re a fan of (i) Malted Milks; (ii) Britishness; (iii) Bristol).
(3) ‘Faute de mieux, dear hearts.’ Work up a stomach to the fight with Tom Hiddleston.
(4) ‘Eh?’ Have a look at these epic battles between knights and snails:
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