With the festive season upon us, BusinessTech decided to conduct a taste-test in search of the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee during your holiday break.
There is division over the differences between a cookie and biscuit. In the US, a biscuit is more akin to a scone, while a cookie covers all the sweet stuff. In the UK, there is a big difference between the two – cookies are softer, while biscuits are more crisp.
Here in South Africa, we use the terms interchangeably to refer to the crunchy (or soft) sweet treats we enjoy either with a hot drink – or simply by themselves.
South African cookie/biscuit shelves feature very few familiar brands – but the producers who feature, dominate with a wide selection on offer. From Zoo Biscuits, to Marie Biscuits and Eet Sum Mores, Baker’s Biscuits are a staple for many cookie-loving South Africans.
For our review, while some Baker’s biscuits were tried out, we looked beyond the usual fare, and tested a few additional lesser known brands too.
The reviews are based on the consensus of 6 taste-testers, looking at the texture, taste and overall experience of each biscuit. Each biscuit was tasted on a different day, both with and without coffee or tea. Pricing was also factored into the scores – included as price per cookie (ppc) below.
Cape Cookies Muesli Yoghurt
Price – R42.99 (ppc R2.15)
A proudly South African brand, Cape Cookies has been around since 1992, offering spins on traditional favourites (you’ll find a Romany Cream-esque cookie among their offerings). To be different and more adventurous, we tasted the Muesli Yoghurt.
Firstly there was nothing healthy about this cookie – but then, we knew that. This cookie’s biggest problem is its size and its texture – it’s bulky, and it’s hard, making it difficult to look classy while dipping it into anything. The yoghurt icing also left a waxy taste texture in the mouth.
Wedgewood Angels Nougat Biscuits
Price – R22.99 (ppc R1.53)
A less familiar brand, the Wedgewood Angels Nougat Biscuits are packaged in a way that would make for a fine addition in a gift basket for your mother-in-law. It’s a shortbread biscuit so it carries a crunch and a crumble, with bits of nougat and chocolate mixed in.
Disappointingly, the general response from our reviewers was that the biscuit was sweet, but pretty tasteless. The nougat was a bit hard – not chewy as one would expect.
Eatrite Low GI Crunchies
Price – R30.40 (ppc R3.04)
It says low GI, but everyone felt betrayed – it was very sweet, very dry, and very crunchy. No one felt like they were being healthy by eating this. Our reviewers had nothing else to say on the matter, but looked guilty for the rest of the day.
Cadbury’s Crunchy Biscuits
Price – R34.89 (ppc R4.36)
Cadbubry’s, known for its chocolate bars, has moved into different target markets in South African, now offering a variety of ice creams and, indeed, cookies. These products are not widely available, often only in select stores, but entice with the offer of your favourite chocolates in cookie form.
Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. The Crunchie cookies were not a favourite among our reviewers, literally leaving a bad taste in the mouth. Everyone complained about “strange aftertaste”, and said they were left disappointed with the overall experience. Consensus was to pick up a Crunchie chocolate bar instead.
Price – R19.89 (ppc R1.24)
It would not be a cookie comparison without the world-famous Oreo. The cookie that isn’t satisfied with only being a cookie can now be found in ice-cream, milkshakes and cheesecakes – it’s basically the bacon of the cookie world. We just sampled the cookies though for this test.
Twist it, lick it, dunk it – you really can’t go wrong with an Oreo – however our reviewers felt that, on its own, the Oreo isn’t as tasty or delicious as it is when mixed with something else. Unlike with most biscuits, the Oreo tastes out of place with coffee or tea. Versatile, but not strong on its own – which is maybe why we mix it with everything.
Baker’s Jolly Jammers
Price: R23.99 (ppc R1.99)
A Baker’s classic, the Jolly Jammer is a familiar face – and with good reason. While your Marie and Tennis Biscuits are standard one-take flavours, the Jammer brings in cookie and icing – with a dollop of strawberry jam to finish it off.
Consensus among our reviewers was that the soft centre and crunchy exterior was satisfying, as was the notion of “eating a face”. Alarming. Tried and true, but also very sweet, which makes having more than a couple a bit daunting. Excellent value for the price.
Price – R19.99 (ppc R1.43)
Another Baker’s classic, which scores above-average in the taste department. The Romany Cream is not a great dunking biscuit (it’s quite firm and doesn’t absorb coffee or tea that easily) but is undoubtedly the first to come out when guests are over for visit.
Consensus among the reviewers is that a Romany Cream is a solid product. It’s not exciting or particularly adventurous – but that’s not a bad thing. An oldie, but a goodie, through and through.
Woolworths Chocolate Chip
Price – R54.95 (ppc R3.66)
Woolworths has built itself a reputation of offering ‘premium quality’ products, so the expectations for its own-brand cookies were high. And it didn’t disappoint.
The only reason the Woolies choc-chip cookie didn’t score a 5 was because it was missing that special “something” – perhaps the feeling of waking up and eating them straight from the oven? Our reviewers couldn’t place it. It scored top points for having the perfect chocolate-chip-to-cookie ratio – but its richness and price marked it down.
Baker’s Magic Choc O Break
Price – R19.89 (ppc R1.33)
Any cookie will score extra points for sprinkles, which is what the Magic Choc O Break offers on top of its vanilla icing that covers the classic Baker’s biscuit taste.
Our reviewers felt like kids again, with a “real chocolate taste” and smaller size bringing them back for seconds and more. The biscuit itself has that unmistakable Baker’s quality, and its complete taste package went over very well.
Merba Cranberry Cookies
Price R19.89 (ppc R2.48)
Another unfamiliar brand, Merba, offers a more unusual cookie taste with its white chocolate and cranberry biscuits.
The first (and only) soft cookie the tasters sampled, the cranberries offered a suitable chew and sweetness, which coupled with the white chocolate chunks delivered one of the best flavours. The biscuit itself tasted fresh – not quite “fresh out the oven”, but close enough – and left a delicious aftertaste. Definitely a top pick.
Arnotts Tim Tams
Price – R40.00 (ppc R3.63)
Tim Tams are only biscuits because a food category doesn’t exist on the fine line between “biscuits” and “chocolate bars”. This Australian import can be found in select outlets in South Africa – and just as well, because if it were more widely available and more affordable, it would dominate.
According to the reviewers, every texture was perfect – soft centre, crunchy biscuit and delicious chocolate coating – but all bets were off when we were shown the perfect way to eat it:
“Bite the one corner off and do the same with the diagonally opposite. Dunk one of the corners in coffee or tea and suck on other side until you taste the liquid. Put the whole thing in your mouth quickly and let it melt. No other cookie can do this.”