The Tim Tam Test: U.S.A. vs. Australia

During a 2002 trip to Australia, a friend insisted that I partake in the wonder of Arnott’s Tim Tams, or a “Milk Chocolate coated chocolate biscuit sandwich with a chocolate cream filling,” as the wrapper reads nowadays.

Tim Tams

Above (top): The Australian package, by way of the U.K. (photo by Yuan-Kwan Chan)
Above (bottom): The Pepperidge Farm U.S. version, coming to a Target store near you in November. (photo by Bibs Teh)

So I carefully enclosed a package of “Original” biscuits in my suitcase, only to discover that a security worker at Melbourne’s airport had to go through everyone’s bags. I was afraid that she was going to dump the chocolate biscuits in the trash, but instead she laughed and said that every single traveler heading to the States had smuggled a package of Tim Tams.

“But you got the wrong ones,” she told me. “Caramel is better.”

Ruing my decision, it would be another two years before I was to try the Caramel version. They were quite difficult to find outside of Australia; I found them at a supermarket in Hong Kong, of all places. And earlier this year, I finally came across them again – albeit only the Original version – at Harvey Nichols in London. Inflated import prices be darned, I stashed the package away in my freezer, waiting for an opportune snack time.

Then, at the inaugural Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, a Pepperidge Farm vendor informed me that they would be bringing the Australian snacks to the U.S. in November at Target stores.

That snack time was suddenly now, and as I munched the Pepperidge Farm version, I wondered how the American Tim Tams rated against their Australian predecessors. I brought a few home to do a taste test and make a comparative breakdown between the Original (Arnott’s/Australian) and the Chocolate Crème (Pepperidge Farm/U.S.) biscuits:

Appearance: On the surface, they look exactly the same: smooth chocolate covering what are clearly two biscuits, down to the ridges. Score: Tied at 1, as there is no discernible difference.

The biscuit: The American version is very crunchy, almost like a thick cracker. The Australian version is equally crunchy but does not have as much of a cookie aftertaste. As a result, the biscuits blend with the chocolate and filling far better. Score: Australia 2, U.S. 1

The chocolate: In both versions, the chocolate comes off on the fingers in a similar fashion; hold it too long and it starts to lightly melt into your fingertips. The chocolate seems to be slightly softer in the Pepperidge Farm version, but that isn’t a deciding factor. Tied here. Score: Australia 3, U.S. 2

Tim Tams

Can YOU tell the difference? (Hint: The biscuit that has fewer scuff marks was transported via air in an enclosed package…) (photo by Yuan-Kwan Chan)

The filling: The chocolate fudge-like filling in the American biscuit melts in your mouth…a little bit too quickly, which means that the taste is all too fleeting, leaving the eater with the aftertaste of the biscuit. The Australian filling is a bit more solid and doesn’t seem to dissolve as much. As a result, the Australian version, with the biscuit and chocolate, is a cohesive snack compared to the U.S. version, where the ingredients don’t mesh as well. Australia 4, U.S. 2

Verdict: Particularly in the biscuit department, the Arnott’s version is the winner, which means that I’ll have to continue to locate Tim Tams during my world travels instead of settling for the knockoff version at my local Target.

Note: I was also told that there is supposed to be a Web site promoting the chocolate biscuits at www.ilovetimtams.com. Although the domain has been registered with the Campbell Soup Company, so far the page is just a blank screen…