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Morning Coffee

Monday 21 Jul 2003

Back in the 1970s we used to watch a lot of Kung Fu on the telly. The young apprentice monk had to walk the sheet of rice paper. His slow and deliberate foot steps tore holes and he knew that he had failed his task. Now the lesson was not to substitute rice paper as a for lino, especially in high traffic areas like halls, Buddhist temples and kitchens. In fact I would just stick to those flying saucer sweets with sherbert inside, as the predominant use for rice paper. No, the lesson was to go off and learn the whole being a monk thing from the old fella with the funny eyes, I think. As the Wife just said "What's this got to do with Morning Coffee?".

Well the Morning Coffee, like Kung Fu, first came to my attention during the 1970s. Being raised in a household of keen biscuit eaters with progressive and liberal attitudes towards the baked snacks, it still came as a shock that some people choose to eat such bland biscuits. In fact I remember the first morning coffee I had whilst visiting friends of my mothers for 'Morning Coffee'. Immediately struck by its intricate graphics the Morning Coffee held out the promise of sophistication, of hidden secret depths in order to fulfill its stated mission as a pre-lunch coffee biscuit. Unlike Kung Fu, the Morning Coffee didn't have an associated hit record "Everybody was Morning Coffee eating", however, I was still keen to taste this 'now' biscuit. It was a bitter blow to find that essentially it was a turn coat rich tea. Those intricate pictures of coffee pots and wisps of steam were the only note worthy point to the biscuit. The rewards to be had from nibbling out the coffee pot from the biscuit compared to say a cow-ectomy performed on a malted milk were scant. A simple mental note to avoid the Morning Coffee for the rest of my life appeared to be the answer.

Now, nearly some thirty years later, fate has conspired to confront me with that knobbly rectangle of biscuit under-achievment once again. Macmillan Cancer Relief are running their Worlds Biggest Coffee Morning event this September and our local branch got in touch to see what biscuit I would recommend for such an occasion. Well I explained to the nice Canadian organising lady on the phone, "You'll need some morning coffees then". "Good and what cookies do you recommend?" she replied, having never heard of the 'Morning Coffee' biscuit and assuming I was being evasive and odd and that we had entered one of those strange transatlantic failures in the English language. "Who makes them?" she continued. I admitted I had no idea, as I couldn't think of a branded Morning Coffee, but replied that all the big supermarkets have them.

So here I am staring into a biscuit tin of Morning Coffee reaping what I have sown. Well I couldn't recommend them and not try them again. We grabbed a pack from Tesco's and one from Asda and they look identical. I'm sure past Morning Coffees had pictures of coffee pots, these have resorted to a simple to a cup and saucer image. Maybe its because the coffee pot itself has been relegated to such niches as the hotel breakfast, and certainly isn't used regularly in the domestic sense.

Now last year you may recall I backed myself into a corner which resulted in my taste testing seven types of rich tea biscuit side by side. Some may have been scarred for life with the memory of such a trial. In fact some were. However, I vowed to become a better biscuit reviewer through the experience. And now finally we get to the point, the Morning Coffee actually when compared to most types of Rich Tea is ever so slightly tastier! I was of course shocked to my very core, my whole belief system threating to crumble before me. How could this be? Well ingredient number four is malt extract. This it seems has given the Morning Coffee a very faint malty sweetness, earning a small measure of individuallity other than its pictures of cups and steam.

His Rich Tea lesson learnt, Nicey notes the slight difference in taste and skips over the tricky rice paper of bland biscuit reviewing leaving not a single footmark.

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Anna's Ginger, Blueberry and Lemon Thins

Monday 14 Jul 2003

Scandinavia, bastion of Euro pop. Denmark gave us Aqua, Norway A-ha, Finland erm erm not sure, oh and from Sweden Abba, Stakka Bo and Roxette. Yes Sweden is out in front there, although I have got a lot of time for the Barbie Girl video, and the 'Sun always shines on TV'. Why it isn't a karaoke classic I don't know. Cars, yep Sweden again with their Volvos. Lets try Sports heros, well when we subtract the whole Alpine/Nordic winter sports thing, we are left with Bjorn Borg, and Sven arn't we. Mind you Norway has some really big cliffs, and Finland has stacks of Reindeer, and Santa lives there, Yay. And just when it seemed the rest of Scandinavia was drawing level, the plucky Danish with their Bacon, Mermaids and tins of Butter biscuits, Sweden plays its trump card... Ikea. Not only can this Swedish superstore furnish your house but it can also fill your biscuit tin. What with? Anna's Swedish thins.

Now as you can already tell from my opening paragraph I know precious little of substance about Scandinavia, so when we move to the question of who exactly Anna is? don't be surprised to hear I haven't got a clue. However, she seems to be based in Tyresö Sweden, and manufacturers a range of thin biscuits with their distinctive nine point shape. Each biscuit looks like a little flower, which gives it a very cheerful demeanor, almost joyful as its puny and delicate body submits to the crushing force of your dental equipment. Yes, initially I felt quite brutal as I set about chomping my way into the review pack. It didn't seem fair, my teeth versus frail little biscuits. However, by biscuit number six or was it seven all such moral misgivings had been banished. It had now become fairly obvious that thinness is merely a ploy to make you eat more biscuits, and thats how they liked it.

It was about now that we opened up the Blueberry thins. Now the Ginger flavour in the Ginger thins was really very mild, the whole effect being not dissimilar to a very thin Caramelised biscuit in the style of the Benelux Speckaloo school of biscuitry. It was therefore a very pleasant surprise to find that the Blueberry thins really did have a credible blueberry taste. Again the Lemon thin had pleasant and subtile Lemon flavour.

It was about now that I realised I had completely lost track of how many thins I had 'tasted'. Resorting to the tape measure it appeared that 11 cm of thins had disappeared, which by my estimate was some twenty seven biscuits... Quite.

What parallels there are between this range of biscuits and the furniture in Ikea I'll leave for you the reader to surmise. Although we have received one email on that subject already. I would merely urge caution. What starts as simple, innocent biscuit eating pleasure may so easily turn into something more serious, leading appalling numbers of losses in the biscuit tin from a simple cup of tea incident.

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