c. Martin Limon, 2005
Sweet Love Affair
(first published in Yorkshire Ridings Magazine,April 2006)
For those seeking an antidote to the stress of modern living, or merely looking for a 'comfort' food, chocolate is an answer they often turn to. With its reputation as an aphrodisiac, or its power to promote a 'feel-good-factor', chocolate, for many, is irresistible. The UK has the second highest consumption per person of chocolate in Europe and consumes over 500,000 tonnes of this velvet confection each year. There is little wonder that the Aztecs of Central America, where chocolate originated, called it the 'food of the gods' and used its raw material, cocoa beans, as a form of money. Yet, as foods go, the now familiar chocolate bar is a relative newcomer. Drinking chocolate was widespread long before advances in technology in the nineteenth century made eating chocolate a palatable alternative. In exploiting this lucrative new business a number of Yorkshire confectionery makers were well placed to make their own mark on the chocolate trade………
Writes Martin Limon
Although drinking chocolate arrived in England during the seventeenth century the complexities of making chocolate in a solid form meant that progress was slow. It was a Dutch chemist, Van Houten, who paved the way to creating modern eating chocolate, when, in 1828, he invented a press to extract cocoa butter from cocoa beans. Cocoa butter is an essential ingredient of eating chocolate and further developments in Switzerland, such as combining chocolate with milk, led to rapid progress.
In the history of confectionery Yorkshire can lay claim to a major role in creating chocolate brands which still predominate today. World-renowned products like Quality Street, Kit Kat, Aero and Chocolate Orange all began life in Yorkshire's chocolate factories during the first half of the twentieth century when these were still locally owned. They were created by companies like Rowntree , Terry, Mackintosh and Needler whose chocolate empires developed from their work as cocoa merchants, grocers or confectioners. What marked out entrepreneurs like Henry Rowntree, Joseph Terry and Frederick Needler was that they had the vision to see that the world around them was changing and understood that developments such as mechanisation and improved transport links by rail presented unique opportunities.