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Thursday 15 Apr 2004

A quick dash to New Zealand this week to take a look at the Afghan biscuit. Yet again Griffins are the people behind this biscuit, which is based on the classic homemade Afghans of NZ and Australia. There is always huge rivalry between the Kiwi's and the Ausies when it comes to who invented stuff from that part of the world. The votes would seem to suggest that NZ can lay claim to the Afghan.

Why on earth it is called an Afghan is anybodies guess, apart from looking a bit craggy like the mainly mountainous Afghanistan I don't see any real connection. Then again it my be connected to the dog breed, which is even more tenuous. Anybody with an afghan hound where I grew up had to call them 'Suki'. Similarly if you had a labrador you had to call it 'Sheba' and feed it up till it could barely walk.

Home made Afghan's are a mixture of cornflakes, cocoa powder, sugar and butter, which is baked and then topped with chocolate icing and walnuts. The Griffins Afghans didn't have walnuts and they didn't have corn flakes either. They did however have wheat flakes which gave a bit of bite to the biscuit and slightly gravely quality. The biscuit has some butter in it and tastes less manufactured due to it.

If I'm honest then I'm a little dissapointed for the first time with a Griffins biscuit. They are nice enough, but I think I was hoping for something as rustic tasting as the biscuits rustic outline. I think we will have to have a go at making some ourselves, in the splendid new NCOTAASD HQ oven.

 Your feedback 5 messages


Tuesday 30 Mar 2004

When Nestlé stopped foil wrapping their KitKat and slipped them into plastic sachets instead it was a bit of a disaster. It was said that it was done so that we could enjoy our KitKats even fresher, but I think you would find it hard to find a gone off KitKat. It was obviously a cheaper and more efficient way of packing the product. The foil was integral to what KitKats were all about, and taking it away was like taking the Pot away from a Pot Noodle. We liked how we could run our thumb nails down the groove between the fingers. We liked how we could run our finger tips over the top to reveal the cursive KitKat logo cut in the chocolate. We even liked how we could roll it up in to little foil balls and bat them around with our fingers, or make little sculptures. So when I decided to take a look at a pack of 2 finger KitKats, I was very amused to find inside the large outer wrapper some foil wrapped KitKats.

According to the press, KitKats have been having a bit of a hard time recently. Last year their sales dropped by 9%, which if you consider it's the market leader with sales that were in excess of 100 million pounds, 9% is a lot of chocolate. Of course the more bizarre plans to revitalise the brand have grabbed the attention of the media. Lemon cheesecake flavours have worked well in Germany and Japan and there has even been mention of liquorice and even curry flavoured versions. Now it's probably fine to try stuff like this in markets where the product doesn't have a particularly long history, but we've been enjoying sensible KitKats since 1935.

There is some dodgy story about why the KitKat got its name, but its a bit dud so I'll spare you the details. If you're curious you can look it up on their website, but don't say I didn't warn you.

As for the KitKat, well very obviously it's a classic British brand which Nestlé acquired when they took over Rowntree, and to be fair they have built into a global brand. They are made in the UK in York, and Nestlé has started making them in several sites in Europe, not just to grow the brand but because of exchange rates.

If you are some kind of space alien visitor from another world then you'll need me to describe a KitKat to you, everybody else has been eating them for as long as they can remember. Right, they are thin wafer fingers that are sandwiched together with something brownish, but I don't think it's chocolate. This doesn't matter as they are entirely coated in chocolate, lots of it. Hence most people consider them to be a chocolate bar. Oh and for some completely unfathomable reason they have yeast in them!

So why have we decided to start talking about the KitKat, which by the way 38% of you consider to be a biscuit? There are a few things that make me think that maybe the marketing people who steward the brand haven't completely lost the plot. Well putting aside the KitKat chunky which was a splendidly successful thing, but is now going into decline as we are all bored with it. Now there is the Kube, which according to the adverts you just eat lots of it slowly, which is probably the best advice to those hoping to put on weight. So just before they roll out the Masala flavour KitKats lets take a close look at the two finger jobs.

Well the logo is still on top, but it's a new one, and its been shoved to one end. As you know, generally we fear change, but in a gesture of goodwill, and given that all the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing I'll think we'll let that go. What is new are some random messages on the top to do with 'Taking a Break'. This 'leverages' the brass rubbing foil fondness we have, and has to be a good thing. I also always enjoy something that is a bit random but mass produced, as they seem contradictory. Additionally, the recent nationwide radio led 'Take a break' Friday which encourages us all to sit down and eat KitKats is also enjoyable. As this is a radio thing there is some concentration on descriptions of favourite eating techniques which works well for radio. Again top marks here, as this is what we all really care about, and it celebrates this much loved product. Also having just scoffed down the review pack with the younger members of staff I am reminded that there really isn't anything that hits the same exact spot as a KitKat, and for that alone it deserves to be around for another seventy years.

 Your feedback 13 messages

Bakers Tennis Biscuits

Wednesday 17 Mar 2004

Well it's St Patricks day today and the Wife being Irish has had us up since the crack of dawn listening to Danny Boy and the like on every CD player and MP3 capable device here at NiceCupOfTeaAndASitDown HQ. The younger members of staff have luckily escaped to their day release facility, especially after they committed heresy by saying they preferred my dodgy old music collection. So we don't actually have an Irish biscuit for you today but we have the next best thing, a biscuit hunted down for us by a nice Irish lady called Gail. No doubt there is some connection between South Africa and Ireland that I'm not aware of, but as half the planet seems to be Irish on St Patricks day we can probably make it stick.

Tennis Biscuits are apparently South Africa's favourite biscuit, at least that's what the packet says. I nearly had my hands on them once before, as my South African operative Nick brought a pack for us to sample. Alas his girlfriend ate them, which was our loss, but illustrates that are obviously quite desirable.

Once again made by leading South African manufacturer Bakers, as have all the SA biscuits we have tried. The Tennis biscuit is a light crispy little item which is possibly like a cross between a good butter biscuit such as the Galette Bretonne, with a dash of syrup and a well balanced coconut flavour. It's refreshingly square, which is actually not a common shape for biscuits, and has some frilly petal like patterns all around its dockers, (the little holes that let the steam out). Occasionally you come across a small fleck of coconut, and by rights I shouldn't like them at all. However, my tastes must be changing as these are really very good.

We fairly demolished half a pack with the younger members of staff monopolising Wifey's mug of tea for dunking purposes, so much so that she had to get herself a second one. These are also the sort of biscuit that finds itself being broken up in its native South Africa to make 'fridge tarts'.

Now to the obvious part as to why they are called called Tennis biscuits? I don't know. There seems nothing about them to connect them with the sport other than the obvious assumption that:

a) They needed a name and 'Tennis' hadn't been used for biscuits up to that point.

b) People playing tennis might have eaten them before during or after a match, probably with a nice cup of tea or even a cold drink.

I'm sure if you know you'll tell us.

 Your feedback 5 messages