York's Chocolate History
As we approach World Chocolate Day on 7th July we wanted to tap into the history of Chocolate and York's impact on this much loved sweet treat! From the origins of cocoa and chocolate to the role of chocolate in York's economy and society. In this blog, we will take you through a journey of the history of York's chocolate legacy, York's famous Chocolate brands, chocolate-themed tourist attractions, and the future of chocolate-making in York.
The history of chocolate dates back to the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, where cocoa beans were considered a valuable commodity. The Mayans and Aztecs believed that cocoa had medicinal properties and used it in religious ceremonies. The original form of chocolate was more like a chunky herbal tea and was then only consumed in a drink. The cocoa beans were so valuable that they were even used as currency.
It wasn't until the 16th century that chocolate made its way to Europe. Spanish explorers brought cocoa beans back to Spain, where the drink was initially consumed by the wealthy elite. It wasn't until the 18th century that chocolate became more widely available and affordable.
The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657, and by the 18th century, chocolate had become a fashionable drink in England. The introduction of milk to the chocolate in the 19th century made chocolate more affordable and accessible to the masses.
In York, chocolate-making began in the 18th century when wealthy Quaker families established chocolate-making businesses. The Rowntree family, in particular, played a significant role in the history of York's chocolate legacy. In 1862, Joseph Rowntree opened a grocery shop in York, which eventually became the Rowntree's chocolate factory.
The Rowntree's chocolate factory was one of the largest chocolate factories in the world. The factory produced famous chocolate brands such as Rolo, Quality Street, KitKat, Smarties, and Aero. The Terry's chocolate factory was another prominent chocolate-making business in York, producing brands such as Terry's Chocolate Orange and Terry's All Gold.
The chocolate-making process involved roasting cocoa beans, grinding them into a paste, and mixing them with sugar and milk. The mixture was then conched, which is a process of mixing and aerating the chocolate to give it a smooth texture. The chocolate was then molded into bars or other shapes.
York's chocolate industry played a significant role in the city's economy and society. The factories provided employment opportunities for many people, and the success of the chocolate industry helped put York on the map. The Rowntree family was also known for their philanthropic efforts, including the establishment of model villages and social reforms.
Chocolate also played a role in the social lives of people in York. Chocolate houses were popular meeting places for the wealthy elite, and chocolate was often given as a gift or used in desserts.
York's chocolate legacy is still celebrated today, and there are many chocolate-themed tourist attractions in the city. The Chocolate Story is a museum that tells the story of chocolate-making in York and allows visitors to participate in chocolate-making workshops. Another popular attraction is the York Chocolate Trail, which takes visitors on a tour of the city's chocolate shops and cafes.
While the Rowntree and Terry's factories are no longer in operation, there is still a thriving chocolate-making industry in York. Many independent chocolatiers have opened up shops, and the city's chocolate legacy continues to be celebrated. Choc Affair being one of the independent chocolate business we work very closely with.
Chocolate-making workshops are also a popular activity in York, allowing visitors to learn about the chocolate-making process and create their own chocolate creations.
From its origins in Mesoamerica to its role in York's economy and society, chocolate has a fascinating history. York's chocolate legacy is a testament to the city's entrepreneurial spirit and the enduring popularity of this delicious treat. Whether you're a chocolate lover or a history buff, there is something to appreciate about York's sweet legacy.
Discover our hand picked selection of chocolate items here.