Tim Tam or Not Tim Tam? That Is The Question…

As the world hurtles toward an economic meltdown, The Outland Institute looks at the most important issue of the day – which is the best Tim Tam-like biscuit? We put them to the test and you might be surprised by the results. Or you might not.

Tim Tam. Just the name sends a shiver down the Aussie spine. The chocolate biscuit is as true-blue an Australian icon as Donald Bradman, Mr Squiggle or casual racism. Like most Australian icons, it’s owned by America – since 1997 Arnott’s have been a fully-owned subsidiary of The Campbell Soup Company of America (you may know them from their work with Andy Warhol).

Wikipedia describes the Tim Tam as “two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate”, which I think takes away some of the magic. The Tim Tam is so much more than wafers and chocolate – it’s a delightful treat, it’s a straw for coffee, it’s a lonely girl’s companion. Launched in 1964, the name comes from a prize-winning American racehorse which Ross Arnott had seen win the 1958 Kentucky Derby (by a strange co-incidence, the horse that came second was called “Chocolate Wafer Biscuit You Can Drink Coffee Through”). Tim Tam (the horse) was inducted into The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985, no doubt leading to endless disappointment for biscuit-starved ex-pats visiting Saratoga Springs, New York.

As the old saying goes, “if you build it, they will copy it under a slightly different name”. So the original Tim Tam now competes with several similar biscuits on the supermarket shelves. How do they stack up? In the interests of science, The Outland Institute gathered a panel to do blind taste tests of four contemporary Tim-Tamalikes.

The four biscuits on trial were:

The Tim Tam

Original (none of this double-choc-vodka-and-cranberry-infused malarky for us). $3.05 per pack.

Dick Smith’s Temptin’

Temptin’. Get it? Temp…Tin’… never mind. A bad pun and a greenish pack is not the best omen for this snack. Arnott’s sued Dick Smith in 2003 over this biscuit (it was settled out of court). $2.48 per pack.

Select Chocolate Sandwich

Controversially round corners, which may make it go faster. $1.99 per pack.

Homebrand Triple Choc

The Repo Man of today’s choices. $1.39 per pack.

The panel was asked to rate each biscuit on a scale of 1 to 5 in four categories – Appearance, Taste, Texture and Quality Of Chocolate. The biscuits were marked by identifying letter only, and the objective was not to guess which was the Tim Tam but rather to evaluate each biscuit on its own merits. And to eat chocolate.

The selection panel were:

Anne-Marie Peard, theatre reviewer (“pretentious arsehole” – John-Michael Howson); gourmand Angela Costanzo; artist Zoe Horsfall; the Evil Doctor Chris; international guest speaker Alden Anderson and myself. Psychology student/property developer Dallas, by admitting she didn’t really like chocolate, was relegated to “control”. Or possibly Geneva. Tea and coffee was served, and then beer.

Biscuit A:

“wonky coverage”, “you can see the biscuit”, “it feels cheap”, “it’s a dominant fondant”, “1 for taste – it’s harsh”, “remember this is the first one, it could turn out to be as good as it gets”.

Biscuit B:

“you could eat this with a latte, whereas you’d scoff biscuit A in a carpark at the supermarket”, “it’s a good weight in your hand”, “it works as one”, “it tastes like something you could take to a Christian Music Camp and not be embarrassed”, “it’s got a good mousse”.

Biscuit C:

“nobody can stack a biscuit anymore”, “i like the shape, they’ve embraced themselves, gone in their own direction”, “they’re not copying Tim Tams”, “this is my favourite”, “you’re an early adopter – this is the future shape of Tim Tams”.

Biscuit D:

“another wonky one”, “it’s got that gross filling again! what the fuck is that?”, “this is my second favourite”, “it’s got an aftertaste – biscuits should not have an aftertaste”, “can you break an A in half so I can compare again? yes, that was disgusting”, “I think D’s got melamine in it”*.

(Several of the team found it impossible to finish Biscuit D).

At the end of the experiment, the scores were tabulated, the biscuits took off their masks, and the winner stepped forward…

The winner was far and away Biscuit B, which was the bona-fide Tim Tam.

Part of the reason for this test was that I honestly thought all the biscuits might turn out to be exactly the same. There are products that have both premium and homebrand versions produced in the same factory, and often what you end up paying extra for is the packaging and advertising. I had visions of The Outland Institute opening up the whole world to a new Marxist dawn in which there were cheaper biscuits for all.

Sadly, capitalism was proved right, with the most expensive biscuit turning out to be the best. It won in all categories, particularly blitzing the competition on Texture and Quality Of Chocolate, and was the only one to have a noticable malty taste. However, the second most popular did hint at my socialist chocolate dream, as Biscuit C – being the Woolworth’s branded Select Chocolate Sandwich – was over a dollar cheaper than the Tim Tam. Further down, the Dick Smith’s Temptin’ narrowly edged ahead of the Homebrand Triple Choc, although neither biscuit could be considered “popular”. (The single most positive comment for the Temptin‘ was that “it looks like the packet”).

Curiously, the Dick Smith Temptin’ was the only biscuit on our list that listed “flour” as a bigger ingredient than “chocolate”. The Triple Choc packet also held a surprise – they contain beef fat. Not the sort of thing you want to find out after you’ve fed them to three vegetarians.

So what have we learned? The best Tim Tam… is a Tim Tam. And I think there’s something in that for all of us.

Anne-Marie: “Tim Tams mark the change from student to grown-up – having Tim Tams in your cupboard means you’ve made it”.

* None of the biscuits have melamine in them. We would like to thank the panel for their hard and difficult work in the preparation of this report.

16 Responses to Tim Tam or Not Tim Tam? That Is The Question…

  1. Dan Cardone says:

    as someone currently stuck (at gunpoint – or rather, penis point – more on that later) in a land where there are no Tim Tams or proxies, this article made me both laugh heartily and then get homesick. it was also fun to try and match the quote with the judge…

  2. Narrelle says:

    There’s a home brand version of the Mint Slice around which is quite nice, though that might only be relative. and Beef Fat? In a chocolate biscuit?? “Would you like a little more cow with your dessert?” Ick.

  3. Anne-Marie says:

    Gourmand Angela and myself are keen for the Mint Slice blind trial. (Mint and chocolate being another contraversial topic.)

    There was once a time when the only biscuits without a good addition of cow fat were ginger nuts! But us whinging vegos must have whinged loud enough, because now most sugary snacks are animal free. Except anything with gelatine – including the “Naturals” range. Yes those cute little dinosaurs with the natural sugar and the cute kid in the add – they are made primarily of ground up dead cow.

  4. Anne-Marie says:

    all I have in my cupboard now is half packet of multi-grain ryvitas….

  5. bruceandfran says:

    How about rating the Tim Tam range. The wife and I attempted similar a while back (which was sort of written about in the post that this has been linked to) and, if you can handle the hit, I’d say the honeycomb crush comes out on top. That said, you can’t eat it in the same numbers as the good old original. And the less said about the Love Potion range…

  6. outlandinstitute says:

    Bruce/Fran: I don’t know why, but I have a Wesleyan approach to Tim Tams – I only accept the existence of the “original” line (although I will concede the Double Coat is also good). That Love Potion range really is frightening, isn’t it?

    A Mint Slice test may be on the cards, but before that Angela Costanzo has brought us a selection of treats from Finland… mmm, Finnish treats…

  7. Tim says:

    “They are made primarily of ground up dead cow.”

    You say that like it’s a bad thing, Anne-Marie…

  8. Sam says:

    Dan: I remember what that was like – always so exciting to get packages from home with Tim Tams, Twisties and Musk Sticks to frighten American friends with (cue big voice “you eat MUSK flavored CANDY!!!!!”)… and whats all the fuss over Oreos about?

  9. outlandinstitute says:

    We asked Alden, our American panellist, what took the cultural place of the Tim Tam in the US, and he said it was the Oreo. We were all a bit surprised because we see the Oreo as a fairly ordinary, everyday biscuit, and the Tim Tam as more a special occasion biscuit.

    When I was living in London I would buy Twisties and Tim Tams at the Australia Shop in Covent Garden – Tim Tams cost three pounds a pack, which at that time was roughly eight dollars.

  10. Dan Cardone says:

    In defense of the US, their candy here is AMAXZING. Yes, with a silent X. I thought I’d died and gone to Heck. Can anything top the pairing of peanut butter and chocolate. ANYTHING AT ALL?

  11. Dave AA says:

    Anne-Marie, I first read your post as saying that the boy in the ad was made primarily of ground up dead cow. Which is kinda believable really.

  12. Anne-Marie says:

    peanut butter, chocolate and beer – cos you need something to wash it down

  13. Dan Cardone says:

    we are SO going on a date next week Anne-Marie…

  14. tamarasheehan says:

    This is brilliant. And I’m pleased to say I just found TimTams in my local grocery store, here in the wilds of Canada. Hooray for small miracles.

  15. outlandinstitute says:

    Well done Tamara! Are they expensive in Canada?

    Incidentally, wikipedia claims that a factory in Indonesia makes Tim Tams for the South East Asian market, which are less sweet that the local version. It’s a whole world of Tim Tams.

    We considered doing a Tim Tam Slam test as part of this article, but couldn’t work out how to scientifically quantify it…

  16. Harry W says:

    there’s no substatute for quality

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