Celebrating the top 8 biscuits made in the UK

homemade cookie biscuits

Recently Tuesdays have become much more exciting, and this is of course because The Great British Bake Off is back on our tellies. We are a country obsessed with baking and indeed with British biscuits!

During the first COVID lockdown you couldn’t go more than a day without hearing about someone baking the best ever brownies, the most delicious Banana Bread or mouth-watering cookies. So, with Bake Off becoming an obsession once again let’s explore the crumbly mountain of Great British Biscuits.

British Biscuit Facts

Over 99% of UK households buy biscuits, and with good reason: they are one of the small joys of life. A travelling snack to tide you over to lunchtime. A grain bar for energy before that long run. Or simply a cup of tea or coffee, you favourite biscuit, and a moment to yourself, wherever you are. The only thing on your mind it to dunk or not to dunk.

But did you know how important biscuits are to the economy? The UK has 343 businesses making biscuits, and many smaller local ones flying under the radar. Here are 4 big reasons to buy British biscuits!

  • First, and most important – they are very good (some even claim to be exceedingly good). OK, other countries make biscuits, but for some reason, they never quite match up to British tastes. Try finding something better than Edinburgh shortbread, chocolate digestives, or ginger snaps! Many recipes have also stood the test of time – the current McVitie’s digestive biscuit recipe has been around since 1892.
  • Jobs. This great industry, worth some £3,000m a year, could employ even more people if we made sure we were buying British made biscuits.
  • Of course, the major ingredient of biscuits is grain, and UK farmers in the likes of Norfolk, East Lothian, County Antrim and Kent are major suppliers – so eating British biscuits supports UK farming.
  • Last but not least, the closer production is to consumption, the lower the product miles. So cutting the distance from farm-to-dunk is an environmental benefit.

8 Best British Biscuits

Without further ado, here is our view of some of the best of British made biscuits. Check out the regional favourites, maybe try a new one, but above all think Great British Biscuits.

british biscuit, caramel wafer

Caramel Wafer

A caramel wafer is a delicious chocolate and caramel biscuit. The layers of wafer and caramel are coated in delicious chocolate making it ‘moreish’ chocolate treat.

Although many brands have their own version of the Caramel Wafer, we can’t look past Tunnock’s original Caramel Wafer as one of the best British biscuits. Tunnock’s have been around since the 1890s and are a household name, especially in Scotland where they continue to be based today.

Custard Creams

I have to admit custard creams are a personal favourite of mine. Back when we were able to work in the office I would often bring in a packet for the team to share while enjoying a cup of tea.

Custard Creams are a traditional British sandwich biscuit filled with Custard flavoured cream. They have been an ever popular choice for people across the UK. There is no particularly leading brand, however most supermarkets have their own-brand version. Or, if you are feeling adventurous why not find a recipe and bake some of your own!

Image: Christina’s Cucina

Aberffraw Biscuit

Aberffraw Biscuits are a traditional Welsh biscuits thought to have originated in the 13th Century. In simple terms they are a Welsh shortbread in the shape of a scallop shell.

The Aberffraw Biscuit Co is a husband and wife run brand, based in North Wales. The brand has gone from strength to strength in recent years, making and promoting their traditional Welsh biscuits. As a result they have been awarded multiple Great Taste Awards in the process. Check out their range of biscuits, from traditional the Aberffraw Biscuit to their award winning Lemon ones.

Digestives

McVitie’s are perhaps one of the most well-known and best-loved British biscuit brands. Their range has some of the most popular biscuit choices in the UK.

We have selected their traditional Digestive as one of our top British Biscuit choices. In 1892 the secret recipe for Digestives was developed by Alexander Grant who worked at McVitie’s- the very same recipe is still used to this day! This tried and rusted biscuit has lasted the test of time and is a firm British favourite.

Cornish Fairing

As the name suggests this traditional British biscuit originates from Cornwall. They are a uniquely spicy and crunchy biscuit made with local Cornish ingredients.

Furniss is the only company in the world licensed to make The Original Cornish Fairing™. They have been making these traditional British Biscuits since 1886. A true tried and tested recipe. Visit their online store to enjoy the taste of Cornwall.

Cookies

Cookies come in all shapes and sizes. From oat and fruit cookies to triple chocolate cookies and everyone has their favourites. Although, not always associated with the UK, many British biscuit brands have a fantastic range of cookies.

The Thomas Cookie Co, based in Kent, have a mouthwatering range of homemade cookies. An added bonus is they offer delivery across the UK. So head to their website to browse the delicious cookie options.

British, Borders Biscuits

Ginger Snaps

I simply had to include Ginger Snaps, they are another timeless classic (and my Granny’s favourite)! There is something comforting about the warming spice of ginger and snap of a crunchy ginger biscuit.

Border Biscuits is a family run company that have been making biscuits since 1984. Their Ginger Snaps are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee, especially on the colder months. You can find their biscuits across the country in various retailers.

British biscuits- shortbread

Shortbread

Shortbread is a deliciously crumbly and buttery biscuit that makes it taste extra decadent. Although a fairly straightforward recipe, it only has three ingredients, it is hard to make the perfect batch. Shortbread really is a simple, yet delicious, British biscuit.

Walkers is a Scottish company famous for it’s shortbread. They have been baking since 1898 and their distinctive tartan packaging indicated their heritage. Browse their online shop to enjoy some delicious Scottish Shortbread.


A Short History of Biscuits

Neolithic EraAround 10,000 years ago there is evidence of grain being baked on stones (not a lot different from the pizza oven concept). Today no-one knows the form these early biscuits too, or quite how they tasted!
The RomansWhat did they do for us?! Well their twice baked bread, panis biscotus, eventually gave us the name for biscuits. At the time though the main reason was to make it keep longer by a two-step baking and drying out process. 
848 – 999King Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, had many victories against the Vikings, and was also a great exponent of learning, good law, and using English. But he had no role in the history of biscuits – it was once-baked cakes he apparently burned.
1066The Norman Conquest was not all about cuisine, but the French term Bis-Qui, derived from the Latin, certainly came to the UK as part of all that! 
1300sThe first appearance of the word ‘besquite’ in English. Medieval biscuits now displayed signs of consumer choice and were not just practical, but made to taste good: sweet, savory, and in pancake, wafer or flat bread form. 
1600sSea borne trading took on a global dimension, and sugars and spices made the biscuit more and more appealing: macaroons, ginger, and of course chocolate also came into the mix! This led to an explosion of variety, influenced by imported recipes and ideas, particularly from France and Italy. 
1700sThe widespread and social drinking of coffee and tea transformed the whole biscuit experience. Previously a solo snack or after dinner digestive, the biscuit would join these new beverages to create the quintessential British Afternoon Tea.
1800sNew oven technology, increased middle class wealth, home baking and much easier transfer of people and ideas around Europe led to an explosion of types of biscuit, when they were eaten, and by whom.
1839To pick out just one intrepid biscuit adventurer as an example, Robert McVitie opened his Provisions shop at number 129 Rose Street, in the Edinburgh New Town. Their on-the-premise baked biscuits and cakes were so successful the company growth was dizzying.  
1840 – 1880The industrial revolution led to a boom in many other brand name manufacturers: Osborne, Peak Freans, Huntley & Palmer, Macfarlane Lang’s.
1874The duty on sugar is removed! Everyone could afford biscuits.
1892Alexander Grant (of McVitie’s) invents the digestive biscuit. The recipe is the same today, and, of course, for his stellar contribution to British society, he was knighted (Queen Victoria loved a biscuit…). Arise Sir Alexander Grant De Forres
20th CenturyBasically, not a lot changed. More biscuits, more variety, innovation in every direction, but by the early part of the century the biscuit had already achieved world domination.
2018A YouGov survey finds the top 5 biscuits in the UK
TodayMillions tune in to GBBO’s biscuit week.

Discover more great articles in our Best of British Series


Share