You hardly have to drag a child screaming to York Chocolate Story – it’s a museum about their favourite foodstuff. Do they get to sample it? Yes. Happiness all round.
I already knew that York was home to Rowntree’s and Terry’s: with the famous Fruit Gums emerging in 1893; Terry’s All Gold goes back as far as 1931; their chocolate orange dates from 1932; but I didn’t know the Chocolate Apple was their first confectionery fruit from 1926. A chocolate apple?! Who knew?!
York’s Chocolate Story works as a family attraction because the information is brought to life. On guided tours you set off for an hour’s chocolate discovery. After a very brief introductory history lesson from the tour guide, which covers the city’s main confectionery producers, including Tuke’s and Craven’s, the first samples are whipped out, and tiny paws reach out to try traditional, dark, unsweetened chocolate (before all the milk and sugar were popular). It somehow kept them happy.
Then you’re ushered through to a darkened room, where a short film tells the early story of chocolate from the Aztecs onwards, how it was appropriated by Spanish explorers and its popularity spread across Europe, primarily as a fashionable drink. The tour guide then hands out tiny cups of drinking chocolate. It’s bitter and nutty, a bit like the texture of the bottom of a cup of ground coffee. Not hugely popular with the adults, it’s clearly not a hit with children, but watching them try it and decry it kept them occupied and entertained. They enjoyed getting their own little cup and assessing it for themselves.
In the third room actors onscreen, representing the heads of each of the main chocolate factories, tell their potted history. As a film interaction it’s a great way to get information across. But the climax is a magic door opening in a wall to reveal a huge bowl of Quality Street sparkling in the darkness. The tour guide, yet again, dishes them out to keen mini tourists.
We then headed to a workstation where the process of making chocolate is explained. Our tour guide was desperately perky, but to her credit she was brilliant at involving the children, especially at this particular stage. The kids essentially winnowed and crushed our cocoa beans, they were a dab hand at the tempering process too.
Next the tasting wheel. Again, we suddenly had a large square of chocolate in our grubby mits. Some kids rammed in straight into their mouths – quite funny – when you were actually meant to appreciate its sheen, and listen to it snap (all which demonstrate quality production), before trying a small taste whilst pinching your nose (to reveal the sheer power of smell in relation to taste) before finally wolfing it down at leisure. Watching the children who patiently waited to eat their chocolate was like watching a dog with a treat on its nose.
That was the end of the guided tour. From there you could wander round information boards, films and displays. I appreciated the old adverts from the 80s which brought back memories and jingles – ‘See the face you love light up, with Terry’s All Gold’ etc. Then we all regrouped around the Lolly Station. This is a fantastic experience for kids. Basically we made our own white chocolate lolly, with a choice of sprinkles. You get a wee dollop of melted chocolate and you go to town with the decoration. It’s fun for all ages. My lolly was a masterpiece, I totally got into it! You then have to temporarily leave your lollies behind to be cooled and packed – this did bring on a rage of tears from one toddler who thought he was being robbed.
Lastly you head to a small ‘factory’ where chocolatiers demonstrate how individual chocolates are made using moulds and fillings. Here we savoured samples with a passion fruit filling, and we were all reunited with our lollies. Happy faces once more.
Once your trip is complete, there’s a large cafe, and a shop with a gorgeously large selection of affordable chocolate to purchase as souvenirs or snacks. Yum! A delicious way to spend a couple of hours in York.
LOWDOWN – For opening hours and prices click here. We used the YorkPass for our long weekend, offering free entry into over thirty attractions and tours, as well as shopping and restaurant offers. One, two or three day passes are available. An adult pass is currently £38 for one day, £50 for two. A child’s pass is £24 for one day, £28 for two. As most attractions welcome under 5’s for free it’s generally a false economy to buy a pass for this age group.
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