Why we love cheap chocolate

We've learnt to embrace the posh stuff. But few of us – even top chocolatiers – can resist the lure of a corner-shop bar.

Is York to be scoffed at for declaring itself Britain's home of chocolate, 150 years after a young George Cadbury and Lewis Fry served their apprenticeships with Joseph Rowntree at a cocoa shop in the city? A new museum opening this month lays claim to a heritage visitors might more readily associate with Mexico, where chocolate was discovered, or Belgium, where its elaboration was raised to an art form.

Foodies may be tempted to mock the city's fathers for celebrating their association with the nation's most famous confectioners, a world away from the artisan chocolatiers who tempt our palates today. Joseph Terry was an apothecary whose Chocolate Orange came out of an experiment with flavour infusions, and the Kit Kats, Aeros and Yorkies created and still made in York are a very different product from the fine bars high in cocoa solids we have come to recognise as proper chocolate.

But scoff ye not; Kit Kat is the world's most successful chocolate bar – six million of them are churned out every day within a stroll of the city centre. So beloved is the product in 100 countries that rare bars of the defunct peanut-butter Chunky variation – it was given an official funeral in 2009 – are currently changing hands for three times the retail price on eBay. "We have bowed to pressure from our Facebook fans and tweets from the likes of Nigella Lawson to reintroduce it," says James Maxton of Nestlé, which owns Rowntree's. It expects an avalanche of sales following the April relaunch.

And while the foodiest of us may seek out Valrhona to cook with, or Green & Black's or Menier if our pockets are less deep, we remain addicted as a nation to the iconic branded bars we grew up with and believed throughout our childhood were the chocolate standard.

Even those with the finest palates – top chefs and award-winning chocolatiers – confess to an undying place in their hearts for the milky, sugary cheap sweet treats they grew up with, and still can't quite live without.

"I'm still partial to the odd Kit Kat I had a soft spot for as a child, and enjoy a Terry's Chocolate Orange, too," admits Theo Randall of the InterContinental restaurant in central London. A fellow alumnus of the River Café, Sam Harris, is also hooked on Kit Kats: "There's always one chilling in the fridge at work, just waiting to be eaten," confesses the chef patron of Zucca.

Ritual plays a big part in our affection for our childhood treats, it seems, with foodies falling over themselves to fess up to eating the chocolate off their wafers first, getting the nuts out with their teeth or some even more sensuous act: '"I would lick all of the centre out of a Creme Egg first, then shove the whole chocolate shell into my mouth," says the New York-based British chef April Bloomfield, who has become addicted to Twix bars, and brings a stash with her back to New York to sustain her at the Spotted Pig.

Even Paul A Young, who studied in York before becoming a master chocolatier, admits to a weakness for the ridges in Aero bars – "designed so you could break off perfectly portioned chunks – they take me right back to my grandma's kitchen". Paul's mother still buys a jar of Cadbury's Roses every Christmas, and because his grandmother spoilt him with Mini Eggs at Easter he now regularly buys a bag for himself.

Rival London chocolatier Marc Demarquette admits to seeking out the gold-wrapped toffee finger whenever a tin of Quality Streets is proffered, and to the influence of the brand on his own prize-winning creations: "It's a timeless collection of classic recipes and flavour combinations that you are still sure to find within the best-selling ranges made by the modern chocolatier. I see it in my own collection of caramels and ganaches."

Happily for the artisan producers who have followed Rowntree's to the confectionery capital, an appreciation that fine chocolate is also worth pursuing has spread north against the expectations of sceptics. "Three years ago, I was told they would never buy my products in York," says Sophie Jewett, whose Cocoa House is on the city's new chocolate trail, and who has been asked to make the best she can muster for the Queen when she makes her Jubilee visit to the city next month.

"Things have come a long way since I came up here for uni 13 years ago and the whole town was pervaded by the sickly sweet smell from the Terry's and Rowntree's factories. People do still love their Kit Kats and Aero bars, but I'm not the only one making a living from fine chocolate in York."

The new museum is also determined not to get trapped in a nostalgia timewarp: "We are dealing with the present as well as the past of chocolate," insists Ann Gurnell, group general manager of Continuum, which opens "Chocolate – York's Sweet Story" on 31 March.

"So as well as telling the story of Britain's confectionery industry we will also invite the public to taste with a modern-day chocolatier to see whether they really do prefer a bar of Aero to a 72 per cent single-origin from Venezuela." Chances are, the answer will be yes.


Half the staff of York's new chocolate museum told a survey they ate all the chocolate off their Kit Kat before tackling the wafer. Many chefs confess to similar rituals:

"Peeling the caramel layer off a Starbar, eating the peanut centre first and then slowly eating the caramel bit by bit."

Allan Pickett, Plateau, Canary Wharf

"Eating the chcolate off the sides of a Kit Kat first – but they're also good crushed up on ice-cream with a little salt."

Damon Wise, Monkey Bar, New York

"Putting Twix bars in the fridge for half an hour so they set a bit... then I can nibble off the chocolate and caramel, leaving just the biscuit exposed for the final few bites."

James Golding, The Pig, New Forest

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering