Now, York is known for a lot of things. It’s Medieval architecture, the historic Minster, it’s remaining city walls. But did you know it’s also the real life Wonkaville?
Home to chocolate royalty such as Nestlé, Rowntree and Terry’s Chocolate Orange, York has carved a name for itself as a chocolate wonderland over the past couple of centuries, with Terry’s, in particular, beginning to paint the Chocolate City brown way back in the 1700s.
It’s a sweet tradition in the city that remains today, one that many locals will tell you, leaves the scent of chocolate sweeping the city during the day, as York-based chocolatiers put themselves hard at work to help cure the sugar cravings of the nation.
Continuing to make iconic bars such as Kit Kat, Aero, Yorkie and Milky Bar in the Capital of Yorkshire, Nestlé has called Chocolate City home for over a century now, beginning UK production here way back in 1904.
And whilst Terry’s York heritage is certainly rich, too, today, the business trades in London – thanks to a decision made by American confectionary company, Kraft. Kraft acquired the brand in the early 90s before closing the York factory in 2005 – leaving just Nestlé and Rowntree (now the same company) as the only big names to make chocolate in the city (and leaving far less of a chocolatey aroma flowing through the streets of the city).
It’s a piece of Northern heritage that remains rather unique, with other Northern cities such as Manchester and Leeds mostly focusing on cotton and textile production – or steel, in Sheffield’s case – which we assume gives off a far less satisfying scent than York’s chocolate factories.
So, how did York get the sweet end of the stick? Thanks to its ideal location on the River Ouse, cocoa beans could travel to the Chocolate City easily via boat, with docks in Hull, Goole and other Yorkshire locations just a short sail away.
Today, modern businesses such as York Cocoa House – which resides in the original Rowntree building – and Monk Bar Chocolatiers continue on with York’s chocolate history, stepping in the shoes of the likes of Joseph Terry and Joseph Rowntree, who helped to build the city of York into what it is today, one chocolate block at a time.
Unfortunately, the secrets of Nestlé and Rowntree remain under lock and key, but chocolate lovers can explore York’s delectable history with the independently run York’s Chocolate Story, as well as visit Impossible York – a bar that now resides in the original Terry’s premises, paying homage to the famous brand with chocolate orange cocktails and desserts.
For those wanting a potter around a proper chocolate factory, York Cocoa House offers group tours, where you can learn the secrets behind chocolate making and even see where the magic happens.