Karthik Pasupathy (aka KP)

What Do Tea Shop Butter Biscuits Teach Us About Product Design?

In India, a tea shop isn’t one if it doesn’t have a glass jar full of ‘butter’ biscuits. Even though it doesn’t have butter in it, the name ‘Butter biscuit’ is synonymous with small brown sweet-and-salty cookies that taste wonderful when dipped in a hot glass of Chai tea. If you’re wondering if this is a blog post about food, it is not. It is about product design. Butter biscuits are a classic example of good product design. Wondering how? Let’s check it out!


Most Butter biscuits are small. There are larger ones too! The ones that cost two rupees and three rupees. But, the ones that you see the most in tea shops and supermarkets are small. The idea is the size of the biscuit should be small enough for someone to dip them into a glass of chai. Also, most tea shops in India don’t have a seating arrangement like restaurants. People will have to stand outside the shop and drink their tea.

In those cases, they’ll already be holding their chai in one hand and the biscuits in the other. If the biscuit is small enough, they can dip it in their chai and eat them without any hassle. And, not just that! They can hold one biscuit between their thumb and forefinger and hold the rest of the biscuits (around three) between the rest of the fingers. If the biscuit is too big and doesn’t go into the glass, they’ll have to use the other hand to break the biscuit. Too much trouble, right?

Another advantage is when the biscuits are small, people eat more. So, more sales for the shop!


The cookie dough and the hardness of the cookie also play a major role in the design of the Butter biscuit. We’ve seen cookies that break into several pieces the moment you take a bite. So, the dough should be soft enough to absorb chai when dipped into the glass, and hard enough not to break into several pieces during other scenarios.

The ‘Pinch’

If you observe the Butter biscuit, it will have a small pinch on it – like someone created an impression with their finger. I call it ‘The Pinch’. Whoever came up with that idea is a genius. The Pinch tells how much the creator understood their users. (The butter biscuit is not manufactured by a single company. It is made by several small local vendors. So, we wouldn’t know the name of the person who actually came up with the idea). The biggest worry of a tea drinker is the biscuit slipping and falling into the chai glass. It creates one hell of a mess. The pinch helps avoid that mess. When you hold the biscuit in the pinch area, it adds more grip while you’re dipping the biscuit into the chai glass. Ingenious!