York has a famously long history with chocolate, going back to the 18th Century with the Terry family and only slightly further forward in time to the 19th century, when Joseph Rowntree learned the ropes of the family business.
York Cocoa House is, amazingly, only five years old but in a short time has become a go-to centre of chocolate for York residents and visitors. The company was founded by chocaholic Sophie Jewett, who - like Professor Lupin in the Harry Potter books - saw the benefits of a good chunk of chocolate after a hard day: "Chocolate would make me feel so happy if I had had a bad day. My relationship with chocolate has now turned into an obsession. I never imagined how much joy and comfort chocolate brought to others."
Here are our Top Five York Cocoa House moments to try and go some way to describe this joy.
It Was Great When It All Began…
Back in 2011, the team first discovered the building that would become York Cocoa House, and set about creating a chocolate wonderland.
"It’s very strange looking back and remembering those early days," says Sophie. "I was still making chocolates in my own kitchen, we had a couple of staff who had been on a work experience placement with us and Michelle worked for someone else and would with much dedication come and paint and clean at weekends, days off and evenings, until eventually, 3 weeks later we’d pulled it all together in time to get open the first day of the St Nicholas Christmas Fair. That team are still part of our Cocoa House family, still each Christmas when they join us, now in their University holidays, we still laugh about that first day we opened."
Dragon’s Den Mentor says, "I’m in."
October 2013: York Cocoa House is the national winner of the 2013 Local Business Accelerations scheme (LBA). Fronted by Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden and backed by then-Prime Minister David Cameron, LBA winners were given an invaluable boost, receiving one year of free advertising in a local newspaper as well as mentoring from a local business leader.
Having competed against 2000 local businesses nationwide, York Cocoa House was judged on the originality of their business idea, their ability to fend off competition, their finances and future prospects, their positive impact upon the local community, and their potential to benefit from local newspaper advertising.
Deborah Meaden: “York Cocoa House is a very worthy winner and I look forward to working closely with Sophie and her team to help develop the business further.”
Sir Terry Wogan Visits
In 2015, the Cocoa House’s favourite programme Saturday Kitchen came to visit to celebrate Chocolate Week and, more recently in 2016, Sophie finally met one of her cooking heroes James Martin…
But by far the most exciting thing to happen, says Sophie, was a visit from Sir Terry Wogan taking a foodie tour around Britain. "We managed to teach him a thing about chocolate making, until he tried turning the molinillos into maracas! Sir Terry made a better chocolate taster than maker!"
Awards Awards Awards
Not only did York Cocoa House win the Deliciously Yorkshire award for Best Beverage for their Classic Hot Chocolate in 2015, but Sophie Jewett won Institute of Directors Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Even more fun was had with the Chocolate Show and Small Business Saturday - with Sophie and Louise being invited to Downing Street and even selling a box of chocolates to the Chancellor.
York welcomed its own Chocolate Hotel - Hotel Indigo, and the Cocoa House created their own special giant chocolate Easter Egg.
Blood + Chocolate
2013 was an amazing year for the Cocoa House, winning Visit York Cafe of the Year and working with Pilot Theatre on two amazing productions - Clocking In and Blood + Chocolate, a staggering feat of street theatre that took place across York city centre and celebrated the efforts of the soldiers - and of course the chocolate-makers - of World War One.
It was a year where so many people came together to celebrate York’s Chocolate Industry and share their memories and experiences of their time working in the chocolate factories, or what life was like growing up in a city that smells of chocolate.
The future is even more exciting for York Cocoa House. Stay with One&Other for some major new developments coming in 2017… and keep up with the Cocoa House by clicking below. Happy Fifth Anniversary!York Cocoa House