This week when I checked my mail I found a package of gluten-free cookie products from Biscottea, a company that was inspired by the absence of a good snack that went well with tea. Frankly I had forgotten all about them asking if I’d like to try one, and so it was a pleasant surprise.
They perfectly match my passion for tea and innovative gluten-free products. I love the fact that you get two in a neat package so that they don’t go stale after opening, unlike a whole bag of cookies. This is a fine example of a quality gluten-free gourmet baked good that doesn’t taste inferior to its gluten equivalent in any way. What I want to know is why they aren’t in every tea shop in the country- and why they haven’t been picked up by retailers like Starbucks or Peet’s coffee. The flavor of the shortbread is wonderful, and buttery without being cloying, unlike Pamela’s gluten-free shortbread cookies (yuck).
The Nibble picked them as a top pick, saying:
“We have eaten many gluten-free cookies, feeling sorry for those with gluten allergies. They will be very happy to discover that Biscottea’s gluten-free cookies are almost as tasty as the regular wheat flour. They are a bit less sweet (we wish the sweetness were on par with the regular cookies), but the excellent tea flavors are virtually identical. Made with gluten-free all purpose flour and sorghum flour, they are a real find for anyone in need of a gluten-free treat. The gluten-free flavors include Blueberry, Chai, and Earl Grey.”
For the record- I hate the Nibble’s review. The whole pitying thing- totally unnecessary. There might be some crummy prepared GF cookies out there, but there are also some delicious ones produced by Whole Foods Gf bakehouse and GF bakeries and the ones I make at home are awesome, so I don’t need anyone mourning MY loss, thank you very much. ;) That aside- I don’t know how sweet the gluten version is, but personally I prefer a cookie that isn’t super-sweet, and saying that they are ALMOST as tasty as gluten-free? Let’s not even go there, people. Nevertheless, I guess any publicity is good publicity, and I’m for anything that increases the gluten-free yummy options in my life!
That aside, whenever a company tries to produce gluten-free products alongside a gluten-line, I get a little worried. The allergen line on the cookie says “Made with Gluten-Free Ingredients: Produced on Shared Equipment, In a Facility using Nuts and Tree Nut Products.” I wondered what that meant- and what the equipment was shared WITH, since they didn’t say.
I emailed the company, and this is what they had to say:
All of the ingredients purchased to produce the shortbread are gluten-free and stored separately from products containing gluten. All equipment used in the baking process is thoroughly washed down and cleaned at the end of the work week. All gluten-free products are produced first at the beginning of the work week before the equipment has been exposed to any products containing gluten. Finished gluten-free product is fully packaged, specially marked, and stored separately before production of any products containing gluten can begin.To ensure the safety of our consumers who purchase BISCOTTEA gluten-free shortbread cookies, we send random samples from every batch. Test results are linked to the batch by lot number and batch code. Our products are released for sale with results of less than 5 parts per million. ” – correspondence from Derek Still of Biscottea.
Of course I prefer a dedicated facility, but if you’re going to have a shared facility, their precautions sounded good enough for me- at least until proved otherwise. So, I got up my courage and bit into my first gluten-free Biscottea…
Biscottea Earl Grey Tea Shortbread: I started with their intriguing Earl Grey Tea Shortbread cookie. This delightful shortbread cookie has great texture and crunch, with a mild buttery flavor that is beautifully complimented with the Earl Grey flavoring. You must like Earl Grey (and its bermagot flavoring) to enjoy this cookie, as it is thoroughly infused. I would almost call the flavoring “soapy” but again, it is the bermagot and not any fault of the product. I had one in the interest of taste-testing… and then I gobbled up the second one because I just couldn’t resist it. It is rare that I find a gluten-free packaged cookie that tempts me, or one that I feel that I would actually buy on my own, but these shortbread cookies are wonderful, and yes, I would actually buy them myself. In fact, I really want to know where I can buy more…
Flavor: 9/10 (providing you like bermagot)
Overall Impression: 9/10 I will go out of my way to acquire more.
Biscottea Gluten-Free Chai Shortbread:
The very next morning after I had the first Earl Grey GF shortbread, I opened a package of their Chai flavor. I had heard on Twitter that the chai tasted a bit like bean flour, so I was a little nervous. But, when I actually tasted it, I thought the shortbread was quite lovely and did indeed taste like Chai. I noticed that the chai spices did not include tea itself, so I was a little disappointed by that as I felt the black tea might have added an additional punch of flavor. However, I couldn’t personally detect bean flour- just cardamon. I gave the DH a bite and he said very happily that it was like eating Chai and didn’t taste gluten-free at all. This Chai shortbread was a real winner and thoroughly enjoyable, although it didn’t have the strong tea-infused flavor I fell in love with in the Earl Grey Shortbread. I loved that it didn’t overdo the cinnamon like some lower quality Chai blends. I could really taste the ginger and cardamon.It would be perfect for any lover of chai tea- and I found it an extremely pleasant snacking cookie that I might buy again- especially if I could get it in an assorted pack of gluten-free shortbreads. (Hint, hint…)
Texture: 9/10, everything a shortbread cookie should be
Flavor: 7/10- lovely but would be even lovelier with black tea as an ingredient!
Overall Impression: 8/10 Good and enjoyed by the non GF DH- I would possibly buy this again. If there was more of a tea flavor likelihood would go up even more..
Biscottea Gluten-Free Blueberry Tea Shortbread Cookie: This blueberry tea cookie was out of stock everywhere I checked, so it may be a popular variety. I never tend to drink fruity caffeinated teas (although I love Celestial Seasoning fruity herbal tea). I was intrigued by the fact that it was made with white tea, and greatly looking forward to trying this cookie, although sad that it would be my last sample of Biscottea. *sniff* When I bit into the shortbread, I could definitely taste the authentic blueberry flavoring. I’m very leery of artificial flavors and this cookie had a real, natural, concentrated blueberry flavor that I enjoyed. The cookie did somehow seem a little more dry than the other flavors, and try as I might I couldn’t detect any trace of the white tea used in the cookie. I ate the first one and enjoyed it, but the nicest part was when I bit into the second cookie and got a burst of blueberry essence. I could see enjoying this shortbread with white tea or some other nice tea, but I don’t know that I would buy it again just because to me it didn’t reach the same special gourmet flavor level that the other gluten-free, tea infused cookies achieved. But, maybe this is just the snob in me that doesn’t care for fruity caffeinated beverages… This shortbread may be perfect for those who love fruit flavors and aren’t looking for a strong tea flavor in the cookie.
Texture: 7/10, this pack may have been less fresh as the cookie was a bit dry.
Flavor: 6/10, good for those that enjoy fruit flavors in their cookies or tea, less interesting if you want a strong tea flavor.
Overall Impression: 6/10 A fine cookie, but I wouldn’t personally buy it again unless it was in a multi-flavor package…
If you haven’t had a gluten-free Biscottea with your tea yet- it’s high time to try it! Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go pine over my tea cabinet and try to wish myself another gluten-free Earl Grey shortbread cookie. *sigh*