York. One of the best preserved medieval cities in the world, with ancient stories and myth cascading through the quaint tangle of cobbled streets and winding snickets. It’s a city with a rich history, exuding a romance and charm that enraptures every visitor. And through it all lingers the scent of something that makes weekend breaks in York just that little bit sweeter: chocolate.
The chocolate insider
Sophie Jewett runs the York Cocoa House. Inside you’ll find a café, shop and even school of chocolate. It’s a place that reverently relishes York’s longstanding link with the cocoa bean, offering what is probably the tastiest history lesson in England.
“I fell in love with chocolate at a really young age but coming to York showed me so many sides to a very special food that I loved,” says Sophie. “The city smells of chocolate most days. When you talk about chocolate here it is coupled with family memories of working at Rowntree’s or Terry’s and the camaraderie and social life that came with that. Chocolate is in the blood of most York people; here it’s much more than just a food.”
The city smells of chocolate most days.
- Sophie Jewett, Chocolatier
York’s chocolate history
York’s love affair with chocolate began long ago. In 1725, one determined woman named Mary Tuke set up a grocery store and battled for years against threats of having her business closed by the Company of Merchant Adventurers on the grounds that she was a woman. Thankfully for York, and chocolate lovers everywhere, her tenacity ensured that her descendants began trading in cocoa by 1785. Later the company also took on an apprentice – a certain Mr Henry Isaac Rowntree.
At around the same time, Joseph Terry took over a former medicine company and started developing tasty ways to make the cures more palatable.
Eventually, with the arrival of the railways, York’s sweet offerings found a wider market and Rowntree’s and Terry’s became household names. Rowntree’s had also expanded, taking on a team of apprentices, among them two young gentlemen by the name of Cadbury and Fry. York continues to produce chocolate to this day. In fact, a staggering one billion Kit-Kats are made in York every year.
Chocolately things to do in York
This city that was once host to a Roman emperor, Viking warriors and Saxons proudly revels in its title as Britain’s Chocolate City. As well as York Cocoa House, numerous chic confectionary shops including Monk Bar Chocolatiers offer exquisite tastes of York’s flavoursome past. It’s too easy to while away a few droolsome hours in them…
The first York Chocolate Festival took place last year filling the old Parliament Street with chocolate and chocolate-makers from around the world. And don’t miss York’s Chocolate Story for a comprehensive glimpse of the history of chocolate in York along with ever popular tasting sessions that take you from cocoa bean to delicious chocolate bar!
What’s your favourite English chocolate?