Digestive Biscuits: Iconic British Snack Perfect For Tea

A collection of digestive biscuits
Digestives! Thanks to Bigger Bolder Baking for the image.

Biscuits! The absolute cornerstone of British snack time and every bit as essential as breathing.

And in England, there’s no biscuit more legendary than the humble digestive.

It’s a biscuit perfect for dunking into tea, thanks to its robust and tasty qualities. But it’s also great for a snack. Thusly, let us celebrate this majigger!

What’s a Digestive Biscuit?

It’s a sweet-meal biscuit consisting of wheat flour, malt extract, and butter.

It’s a plain biscuit, essentially, compared to others on the market (such as chocolate hobnobs). But it does come in many varieties.

For example, chocolate digestive biscuits enter a different realm of excellence and are also ideal for tea dunking.

And for most British people (except, you know, the upper class lot) they form a part of your life, usually when you’re growing up and discovering the joys of cheap snacking.

So it’s not something Boris Johnson and his Tory elite will indulge in. It’s too low brow for those dudes!

But for your average Brit, if you’re looking for a snack then you can’t really go wrong with a digestive biscuit.

What’s the History of the Digestive Biscuit?

Digestives hail from Scotland. They were once called homewheat biscuits and were first introduced to the food market in 1839.

Two Scottish doctors (and we tried to find their names, but couldn’t) invented the biscuit to assist with digestion.

Advertisements for the product appeared as early as 1851 in London-based Lancet medical periodical. And in the wider press from 1876, with the recipe also appearing in cookbooks from 1894.

The first chocolate digestive biscuit launched in 1925.

And in the 20th century the biscuits really took a stranglehold on British life, proving a cheap and effective snack for young and old.

Adverts, such as the one below, hammered into the nation’s conscience the biscuits were a part of normal family life.

Old McVitie's digestive biscuit advert

The product also shipped abroad to North America, with a a patent being filed by John Montgomerie of Scotland in 1889.

So, Americans got such rustic malt delights before the 20th century.

We also came across some misinformation online suggesting digestive biscuits are banned in America. This isn’t the case, we believe they’re readily available over there.

Anyway, away from the AMERICANS! If you’re wondering just how popular biscuits are in the UK, there was a YouGov poll to reveal Britain’s most popular biscuit. That was conducted in the heady days of December 2018.

YouGov's top five most popular British biscuits

Sure, it’s a narrow victory for chocolate digestives, plus plain digestive biscuits further back with 71%, but they won all the same!

Special mention to Jaffa Cakes there as well, we really need to do a full feature dissertation on those beauties soon! They truly are special.

But anyway, today is about the humble digestive biscuit! Bow down before it, mere mortals, for you truly are not worthy!

Are Digestive Biscuits Healthy?

Erm, no. Not really. Biscuits just aren’t very good for you. Unless you think of Weetabix as a biscuit, as they’re actually pretty good for you (added sugar aside).

Although one biscuit is about 50 calories, those aren’t healthy calories you’re consuming.

The biscuits are highly processed to ensure they have a long shelf life, which means they have all sorts of things added to them.

And they’re packed out with sugar and butter.

So, great as an occasional treat. But you really shouldn’t be stuffing entire packs of the things into your face daily. Moderation is key!

How Does McVitie’s Make Digestive Biscuits?

McVitie’s is a powerhouse of biscuit production. The British business has been around since 1830, making for 191 years of biscuit making experience.

It’s the bestselling biscuit manufacturer in the UK and the most famous.

The other products in its arsenal include Hobnobs, Rich tea, and the aforementioned (and glorious) legends that are Jaffa Cakes.

McVitie’s takes biscuit making very seriously, so behold the above video.

How Do YOU Make Digestive Biscuits?

You can make your own variety, of course, there’s nothing stopping you there. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

2/3 cups (236g) whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
½ tablespoon of salt
3/4 cup (85g) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (115g) butter (cubed)
1/4 cup (57ml) milk

As always, you’ll also need an oven. Plus arms, a functioning brain, and it also helps if you’re not unconscious and/or dead.

Being alive is the best way to enjoy digestive biscuits. So, enjoy them! Dunk them into tea. Or just stuff them into your stupid face.

2 comments

  1. It must be wonderful, but I have got to say that to these foreign ears of mine having a biscuit go by the name of Digestive is a bit weird!

    I hope that comment doesn’t ruin my chances of being knighted in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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