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What does an Israeli have to do for a bit of chocolate with which to start the winter and to try and forget about the strikes? Not much, but a bit more than usual - with a pair of cylindrical cream-filled cookies called Tim Tam. This Australian invention was first imported to Israel three months ago and has become a hit with chocolate and cookie lovers, sending them wandering from kiosk to kiosk in search of the magical combination.

All the varieties of Tim Tam come with a small instruction booklet explaining how to bite off both ends of the wafer biscuit, dip one end in a mug of hot coffee and put the other end in the mouth and suck. The chocolate cream-filled cookie serves as a straw and the coffee melts the filling. Chocoholics will not be disappointed.

There are different types and flavors of Tim Tams. The most popular are the packets of Tim Tam fingers, which are the most efficient cookie-straws. After them come the large packages of cookies, which are larger and wider. Although less convenient as straws, they still do the job. The "chunky" cookies are a bit more bulky for the really experienced Tim Tam consumer - two thick cookies joined together that send a double portion of chocolaty coffee into the mouth.

Tim Tam consumers have to be quick on the draw because the wafers dissolve in seconds. People who are too slow are liable to find themselves with chocolaty fingers. The different flavors include Double Coat, Chewy Caramel, Classic Dark Chocolate, Mocha and Coffee, and Hazelnut Praline Tim Tams will be here soon.

Over the past month Tim Tams have been the most sought-after of all the chocolate snack foods that herald the coming of winter. Spetz, the company that imports them, credits their success to the sales promotion staff who wandered the streets handing out samples, the three advertising cars but mainly they owe their popularity to word-of-mouth.

And what does the port strike have to do with these cookies? Gabi Suissa who, together with partner Golan Riff, imports Tim Tams, says demand is way beyond supply. A new shipment that has arrived by sea is being delayed because of the strike. Each shipment takes two months to get here and contains 80,000 packages. 30,000 of these disappear within three days of their arrival at the company's warehouse because Israelis have found a typical way to deal with the shortage - they come straight to the importer in Holon and buy Tim Tams by the case.

The importers note that Tim Tams are not such a big hit in other countries and suggest that the cookies' popularity in Australia and Israel is "perhaps because Israeli and Australian tastes are similar."

The biggest problems with Tim Tams are that they're available only at kiosks and they are quite expensive. One kiosk in north Tel Aviv is selling packets containing nine Tim Tam cookies for NIS 18. Suissa has promised these problems will soon be solved - next month the cookies will be approved as kosher [meeting the requirements of the Jewish dietary laws] and will then be sold at supermarkets at a much lower price.