Tim Tams or Penguins? The Australia versus Britain sweet treat taste test

McVitie's Penguin Biscuits
McVitie's Penguin Biscuits Photo: Supplied

For decades the debate of whether Vegemite is the superior yeast-based spread to Marmite has raged between the United Kingdom and Australia, but now a new food rivalry is rising: the Tim Tam versus the Penguin.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson held out the promise of cheaper biscuits to cheer up British consumers.

"We send you Penguins and you send us, with reduced tariffs, these wonderful Arnott's Tim Tams," he said when launching free trade agreement negotiations between Australia and the UK last week. 

McVitie's Tim Tam-like Penguins can be found for as low as £1 a packet in Britain.
McVitie's Tim Tam-like Penguins can be found for as low as £1 a packet in Britain. Photo: Supplied

"How long can the British people be deprived of the opportunity to have Tim Tams at a reasonable price?"

It's a fair question, considering a packet of Tim Tams costs £8 ($14.44) at UK department store Selfridges compared to $3.65 at Coles. 

Meanwhile, McVitie's Tim Tam-like Penguins can be found for as low as £1 a packet in Britain, but will set an Australian punter back $7.90 from Sydney-based online store British Sweets and Treats

Which country will benefit most in the forthcoming sweet stakes then? Does Australia really need more competitively priced Penguins? Are Tim Tams not already the perfect afternoon snack? Is a Jammie Dodger any better than Arnott's Raspberry Shortcake? 

Good Food held the Ashes of taste tests to find out, albeit played in the tearoom rather than Lord's.

The Tim Tam, top, is smaller than it's British Penguin cousin.

The Tim Tam, top, is smaller than it's British Penguin cousin. Photo: James Brickwood

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McVitie's Penguin Original v Arnott's Tim Tam Original 

The chocolate-covered, cream-filled biscuits are identical except for the Penguin being longer by more than a centimetre. The British biscuit is crunchier too, but an overload of sugar makes the treat cloying and one-dimensional. Meanwhile, the Tim Tam's cocoa notes are pronounced and the texture is smooth.

Winner: The Tim Tam, no competition.

Arnotts's Raspberry Shortcake (left) and a Jammie Dodger.

Arnotts's Raspberry Shortcake (left) and a Jammie Dodger. Photo: James Brickwood

Burton's Jammie Dodger v Arnott's Raspberry Shortcake

Arnott's entry in the raspberry-filled biscuit category is super chewy - a quality loved by some and loathed by others.There's a fair bit of chew with the Dodger too, but the apple and raspberry filling is fruitier, while the shortcake speaks of Sunday afternoons spent with Miss Marple.

Winner: Jammie Dodger, almost for the name alone.

The Mint Pattie is more native to school tuck shops than dinner parties.

The Mint Pattie is more native to school tuck shops than dinner parties. Photo: James Brickwood

Nestle After Eight Mint Chocolate Thins v Nestle Mint Pattie

Granted, the Pattie is more of an afternoon pick-me-up native to high school canteens, but it's also a dull and too-sweet experience. Unlike the UK's wafer-ish After Eight which is a refreshing one-two punch of dark chocolate and peppermint fondant. Perfection after too many Yorkshire puddings at the local pub.

Winner: The After Eight by a significant margin.

Arnott's marshmallow filled Royal (left) is smaller than its   Tunnock's Tea Cake mate.

Arnott's marshmallow filled Royal (left) is smaller than its Tunnock's Tea Cake mate. Photo: James Brickwood

Tunnock's Tea Cakes v Arnott's Royals

What's not to love about a marshmallow-filled chocolate shaped like a kitten-sized beanie? Arnott's wins points for the Royal's structural integrity and firm biscuit base, but the raspberry and marshmallow filling tastes like an Iced VoVo that's turned its back on the world. Tunnock's tea cakes, however, are mallowy, creamy and marshy in all the right places.

Winner: Tunnock's by a nose.

McVitie's Digestive lacks the structural integrity of Arnott's Shredded Wheatmeal.

McVitie's Digestive lacks the structural integrity of Arnott's Shredded Wheatmeal. Photo: James Brickwood

McVitie's Digestives Biscuits v Arnott's Shredded Wheatmeal

McVities Digestive turns to crumble almost as soon as it's removed from the packet, whereas Arnott's bran bikkie has a robust wheat taste and takes generous licks of butter without snapping. (And gee whiz, do digestives need butter.) 

Winner: Arnott's Wheatmeal for structure.

Cadbury's UK Dairy Milk (middle bar) uses a slightly different recipe than the Australian-made version.

Cadbury's UK Dairy Milk (middle bar) uses a slightly different recipe than the Australian-made version. Photo: James Brickwood

Cadbury Dairy Milk UK v Cadbury Dairy Milk Australia v Nestle Yorkie

Any British expat will tell you Cadbury's glass-and-a-half classic tastes different between the UK and Australia and they're not wrong: Australia's is better. Not only is the Oz bar larger by five grams, it has a higher minimum amount of cocoa solids and is way more mouth-melty than its British counterpart. But, for straight-up milky deliciousness the Yorkie trumps both, and as soon as it's more readily available in the country, the better.

Winner: All hail the Yorkie.

Final score in an upset: United Kingdom 4; Australia 2.