This month CHOCOLATE – York’s Sweet Story is working with Nestlé to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Rowntree’s in York on 1 July 1862.
Throughout the month of July, CHOCOLATE – York’s Sweet Story’s Head Chocolatier, Andrew Thwaite, will be creating chocolates based on original Rowntree’s recipes from the Nestlé archives for guests to sample on the tour. An assortment of chocolates will be made throughout the month including some using single origin chocolate filled with a selection of coconut (or cokernut in the origingal recipe), coffee and minced cocoa beans – hand dipped and hand cut as they would have been in the nineteenth century.
To celebrate the contribution of this great family to the city, the attraction is offering 25% off admission to CHOCOLATE – York’s Sweet Story during July for ex-Rowntree’s and current Nestlé employees allowing them and up to 3 family or friends to enter the attraction. Employees need to show their factory ID when arriving to qualify for the discount and ex-employees can enter by showing an old pay slip or letter on company paper.
Alex Hutchinson, Heritage Manager at Nestlé York said: “This has been an exciting joint project as part of our Rowntree’s 150th celebration. From the Nestlé Archive, we were able to find the historical moulds and papers not seen since the late 1800’s showing the recipes and how they were made. Combining these with the skills of the attraction’s chocolatiers, together we’ve been able to reproduce some of the earliest Rowntree’s chocolates. We are delighted to be able to share these with CHOCOLATE – York’s Sweet Story’s visitors.”
Rowntree’s is believed to have started making confectionery in the 1870s, (milk chocolate wasn’t invented in Switzerland until 1875). Rowntree’s early chocolates would have been bitter, dark chocolate, high in cocoa content and with a thick fondant centre, known as “creams”. The chocolates that are being made this month have been made using recipes and moulds that were uncovered from the Nestlé Archive and date back to the late 1800’s.
The method used to make chocolates 150 years ago was similar to how it is done today, but was much more labour intensive. Creams (which didn’t actually contain any cream) were among the most popular sweets. These were made by coating an assortments mould with chocolate, then piping a flavoured sugar fondant into the hollow. The bottom of the chocolate would then be sealed with a base, or ‘foot’ of more chocolate. The chocolatiers at CHOCOLATE – York’s Sweet Story are using similar methods for the handmade chocolates one can taste in the attraction every day this month.
Almond paste chocolates (like marzipan) were also popular. The paste was made by grinding down almonds to mix with syrup and then kneaded like pastry on a floured surface. Once rolled out flat the paste would be cut with novelty shaped pastry cutters or with a device like a rolling pin with cutting disks running along it.
In the early days of the Rowntree company chocolate was made without using cocoa powder. Cocoa powder as we know it was made possible by the Dutch hydraulic press, which forces cocoa butter out of the cocoa liquor, leaving behind a substance that can be alkalized into cocoa powder. The Rowntree brothers didn’t think that they were able to afford a Dutch press at first, so all of their cocoa was made by grinding down cocoa nibs and adding things like flour, sago or chicory to “stabilize” the mixture.
Ex-Rowntree and current Nestlé employees can enjoy 25% off admission to CHOCOLATE – York’s Sweet Story throughout July – simply show your factory ID on for you and up to three friends or family members to receive the discount.