Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chai and Biscuit

The thought of biscuits takes me back many years when we had a lovely biscuit factory - JB Mangharam & Sons. I say lovely, because I can still remember the wonderful aroma that used to waft from their factory as we went past the area where they were located. Even as far as a kilometer away!

The lane outside the J B Mangharam factory had these carts that used to sell huge packets of broken biscuits. Like the export rejects of the present day. There would be wafers, cream biscuits, ordinary tea biscuits in all sizes and shapes. For a princely sum of five rupees. These would be brought home and stored in two 5 kg tins of Sway detergent powder!!

Sway used to be the detergent of our times. They were probably the first company that introduced the detergent powder. They sold it in packs that were placed in these big light blue tins. After which the tins would be scoured and sun dried and ultimately found a pride of place in every kitchen. Most kitchens would have rows and rows of these tins in which pulses and eatables were stored and as in our house the JB Mangharam biscuit bits.

The variety of biscuits or cookies available these days are mind boggling. There are many who will proclaim that the most boring biscuit of them all is the Marie biscuit. But invariably when you go visiting friends,unannounced, you will be given a cup of tea with the Marie biscuit. Some have even rechristened it as Mary Biscuit.

Hard to think of the good old Marie biscuit as a food of the royals or upper class. In fact it is thought that the large size was intentional . Ever noticed that it cannot be dunked into the tea even in a fairly large mug until after the first bite. It would have been highly 'improper'for a royal to indulge in dunking!

The biscuit was named after the Grand Duchess Maria, or Marie,daughter of Czar Alexander II of Russia, who was supposedly the Lady Diana of her time. She married Alfred , the second son of Queen Victoria. To commemorate the union, a bakery in Britan created the Marie biscuit.

Now with a Royal wedding coming up, Prince William has brought this otherwise considered boring biscuit into limelight, by choosing it to be a main ingredient of one of the cakes that is to be served.

It is the bland flavour of the biscuit that makes it specially suitable for sweet dishes. A friend made this rich dessert from Marie biscuit the other day. She made a liqueor of coffee. Dunked the biscuit in it. A layer of that on a shallow dish. A coating of marmalade. And over it the chocolate sauce. Followed by nuts. And some whipped cream. This was repeated thrice. The leftover cream was slathered over the top. Decorated with more nuts and then frozen. And sliced and devoured.

A delicious alternative to dunking in tea. And Prince William would definitely concur.

PS: If you like dunking biscuits into your beverage, check out this site.

A google search indicates that JB Mangharam is now a subsidiary of Britannia Foods.

And Sway detergent vanished when they were outsmarted by Surf. Sway detergent increased their sales by giving a plastic bucket for every 3 packet tops. Sales soared, till Surf bought all the buckets that were manufactured. Sway could not keep up their offer of bucket exchange. Housewives changed their brand and the detergent company soon closed down. The Sway tins remained in many households like ours till they corroded.

Image courtesy:


  1. Interesting history of marie biscuits! I remember Sway detergent too! But I don't remember about the tin. Felt sad to know that it is no more.

    Most of the people say 'Mary biscuit'! My husband used to have it with his coffee! Don't remember when he stopped dunking biscuits in coffee but we still have it after coming back from our morning walk, with it straight! Yes, the size used to be quite big!

    Enjoyed reading this post, Radha!

  2. J B Mangaram stillrings a very familiar bell. Thos ewere the days

  3. What a lovely post ! There is a railway overbridge in Mumbai, that connects the cuburb of Vile parle (east) to Vile Parle )west), and as you approach it, you get these lovely whiffs of baking biscuits. Its the Parle G factory.

    My in laws lived in the eastern part, and my son , 26 years ago, would insist of going in that area whenever we visited; he thought it was ideal if you lived there, living and breathing biscuits.

    We still get a whiff, but it is fading out. The factory, I heard , is giving way to real estate sharks.

  4. I love Marie biscuits dunked in tea. And I have handed over this not so royal habit to my kids too. We use large mugs just for this purpose. :D

    Never heard of JB Mangaram or Sway. :( But lovely reading about this.

    It reminded me of the smell of fresh bread, from a bakery near home, that I used to enjoy in the morning from the bus on my way to school everyday!

  5. Such an interesting post, Radha! I didn't know about the 'royal' connection of Marie biscuits.

    We used to get broken biscuits at reduced prices from our local bakery too!

    Suranga, I've often appreciated the lovely smell of freshly baked 'Parle' biscuits, too!

  6. Such an interesting topic for a post...It was so good to know about the history of the Marie biscuit! When we lived in Hyderabad, we would go out for a morning walk to the "walker's park" at Masab tank. It was usually after a cup of tea, until one day, at the park, we saw a group of people gathered. They were listening to the Nutritionist speaking. We listened in. She was saying' "Always have a biscuit with your tea, before you start your walk" That was our licence to start our day with a biscuit - the only Nutritionist advice we ever seemed to have followed seriously!

  7. oooh yesss I remeber I had come for the fist time to Uk.. and we had gone somewhere and I ordered my coffe and some biscuits came and thats exactly what i did DUNK and EAT yummmmy ...

    The things about JB and sway well I did not hear about them but yer i can recall this place where as you say we could buy all these biscuits for peanuts the reason being they were broken ..

    Thanks for sharing :)


  8. Echoing other sentiments - very interesting topic to post. I don't much care for Marie biscuits by themselves. But if you spread some peanut butter and eat it, its heavenly! I suppose thats the great thing about it. It brings out the flavour of other ingredients.

  9. An enjoyable read.But Marie biscuit still holds it sway.How I wish broken biscuits and damaged soaps were still sold at dirt cheap prices.

  10. Great post... Never knew the history of Marie biscuits, very interesting indeed!!
    And I love to dunk my biscuits in my tea...
    Have a lovely Sunday:)

  11. Put chocolate spread on Marie biscuit, it is heavenly.
    Good post.

  12. What a delightful post, Radha!
    My father used to get atta biscuits from a local bakery, they'd be stored in a large, cubical canister with a round lid in the centre. How I crave that taste!
    The biscuit cake sounds delicious. When Brittania launched Vita Marie Gold, we quite liked them. Of course we'd dunk them in our tea. One fine day the spouse asked for another cup of tea because 'the biscuits had drunk up all the tea)!

  13. In fact during my leisure time in a nostalgic mood, i came upon this wont believe, by typing sway in the google search box.. and here i was transported to my school and the sway detergent days.. written well i must say.

  14. Nice post....took me back to my school days.. sway, j b mangharam and sathe biscuits from poona.... once upon a time they were house hold brands.... J B mangharam was from Gwalior and Sway from Gwalior remains as a name.. pune and mumbai.. names have changed... how times change....

  15. Nice blog... took me back to the good old days of childhood.. Sway tins, JB Mangharam, Sathe Biscuits, Plato fountain pens,Rimjhim Masala Soda, Mangola,Jai soaps, Afghan snow.... once upon a time they were house hold brands... how times change and even the mighty are swept away....

  16. Khao Biscuit Khao Biscuit
    J.B. Mangharam Kay !

    That was the slogan. I dont know where their factory was, in Hyderabad. (Main factory was in Gwalior, and a smaller unit in Hyd., i learnt later)., but i have never seen the Factory (even in its defunct Avatar).

    Boy ! J.B. Mangharam was the Prince of Biscuits. They were not Biscuits... they were Jewelry.. in a tin box.. And what a box it was.

  17. My favorite 50-60 years ago -- JB Mangharam's Pineapple Cream Wafers. Can not forget that superb aroma, still buy once in a while other brand cream wafers from Walmart.

  18. It was a sheer co incidence that I read this blog and was prompted to comment. Incidentally my grandfather and his cousins were the ones who started this enterprise in Sukkhur and were the pioneers in eggless biscuits.The orange drops finds a mention in the book SINDH which I just read.
    Was happy to read your memories.

  19. My brother came across your blog by chance and we were very happy to read the post and comments Reason is that our grandfather had started this company along with his cousins who wre more like his brothers way back in Sukkhur before partition The factory still exists and A company called Yakub makes the biscuits there.
    They were pioneers to introduce biscuits without the use of eggs .The imported biscuits always had eggs The orange drops were used and jujubes and meethi saunf were other popular products Thanks for sharing


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