Chocolate – we can find it in candies, drinks, home fragrances and even soaps or perfumes. It is so seductive and famous that many countries have museums and workshops dedicated to it, explaining its history, production process and its health benefits. That’s because the chocolate that is high in cocoa solids (dark variety) and the one containing milk is now recognised as having many qualities that are beneficial to our health. Further we’ll explore two of world’s chocolate museums – York’s Chocolate Story (United Kingdom) and Riga’s Laima Chocolate Factory (Latvia).
York is a remarkable city. It is Eangland’s capital of chocolate and the role that it played in the manufacturing of this amazing dessert is told through York’s Chocolate Story museum. “Since opening in 2012, the museum has prided itself on telling the story of York’s great chocolate making past, as well as keeping the tradition of chocolate making alive in the city.” The museum tells the stories of “those who have worked in the chocolate industry, explores how chocolate is made and showcases brands” famous all over the world. The passion and dedication of the chocolate manufacturers turned the city into “UK’s home of chocolate”.
A visit through York’s Chocolate Story gives you a unique insight into the fascinating story of one of the world’s most popular products. According to the museum’s history information, the origins of the word “chocolate” are uncertain. “Most theories suggest that it is a corruption of a Nahuatl word – “Xocolatl” – that may have meant ‘bitter water’, ‘hot water’ or ‘cacao water'”. The tour guide describes how the cocoa bean appeared in both rituals and myths from Mayan and Aztec cultures because many of the rituals involving cocoa were offerings to the gods.
Once reaching Europe during the Spanish colonisation of Central and South America, the main addition to cocoa was sugar. “This continues to the present day, with sugar being one of the main ingredients in almost all chocolate based products”.
“The high cost of both chocolate and sugar meant that during the 18th century chocolate was seen as a drink for the rich”, before the product “began to take off as a ‘take home’ product.” The journey continues through the factory zone until you discover the history of some of York’s most iconic chocolate brands, now famous all over the world!
KitKat is one of the world’s most famous confectionery bars. But did you know that the popular chocolate was produced in York? Besides being globally popular, it is also the York’s brand that comes in most varieties. According to the museum’s chocolate history, “it was created at the suggestion of a worker who wanted a chocolate bar that you could take to work as part of a packed lunch. In 2010 Guinness World Records declared that KitKat was sold in more countries than any other chocolate bar, and was the world’s most global brand.” Now days, it is a chocolate phenomenon.
Further we delve into the history creation of Terry’s famous chocolate that shaped the city. According to Yorkshire Post, Joseph Terry put his chemistry skills to good use by creating new chocolate lines, and began to use the developing North Eastern Railway network, which had York at its heart, to send his products for sale in London. In 1993 Terry’s was purchased by globally producer Kraft Foods. Terry’s remains an icon of York’s gret chocolate past.
York’s Chocolate Story gives you the possibility of mastering the secrets of the chocolatier, as you create hand-made chocolates for yourself, before seeing how experts do it. During the simple guided tour, you can create your own personalized chocolate candy, as seen above, or you can book a truffle rolling tour with exclusive mentoring on how to roll the perfect chocolate truffle.
In 2018 York’s Chocolate Story launched “Times of Change: Women And Confectionery” exhibition, on International Women’s Day. It focused on the role of women in York’s chocolate industry, as 2018 marked 100 years since women gained the right to vote. Click here to read some of the stories from the people who worked in York’s chocolate factories – Terry’s, Craven’s and Rowntree’s. York’s Chocolate Story are Partners with Callebaut. Their program – Forever Chocolate – aims to make sustainable chocolate with no child labor the norm across the industry by 2025.
As accredited Quality Badge holders and winners of the Sandford Award, York’s Chocolate Story is delivering educational school trips, inspiring and entertaining children through the story of chocolate. Click here to see more reasons to visit York’s famous chocolate museum and head over to their official website for award-winning educational workshops, online shop and discounts.
Another one of world’s chocolate museums, Riga’s Laima Chocolate Museum, takes you in an exploratory journey on the path of cocoa beans to find out how the confectionery industry started in Latvia. You will get to know the historical packaging of sweets and which ones have changed the least over time. Currently, Laima includes almost 250 different products available in Latvia and abroad, as the chocolate can be bought in 20 countries of the world.
Unlike York’s Chocolate Story, reservations must be made in advance for both the guided tours and the creative chocolate workshops. Every participant will be able to work with three types of chocolate and more than ten different chocolate ingredients in order to prepare their own unique chocolates, pack them in a special box and take them home afterwards.
According to Europea.org, Laima Chocolate Museum was created almost half a century before the foundation of the Republic of Latvia. In 1870, Theodor Riegert opened the first chocolate factory in Latvia. In 1921, Jewish merchants established a sweets factory Maķedonija with only 4 employees at the beginning. The factory was located in the place where the factory Laima is situated now—in Miera Street, Riga.
Laima got its name only in 1925.
In 1937, the factory created one of the most popular chocolates of nowadays—Serenāde. This chocolate brand was invented by one of Laima’s employees as a special gift for his beloved, to confess her his love. On the day when “Laima” started the production of the new candies, the master handed the girl a box of “Serenade” and proposed to her. “Serenāde” has been one of the favorite candies for generations of sweet lovers.
Besides classic Birthday Celebration Programs, at Laima Chocolate Museum can be organized seminars and conferences in the Chocolate Hall, constructed in 1939 and renovated in 2013. This is exactly where the “Laima” laboratory was located and where new products and new recipes for delicious chocolates were being created.
One of the most unique experiences offered by the Museum is the experimental degustation of wines and chocolates by the Vieta wine bar, that will challenge participants to evaluate pairings and the effects of various flavours, as well as learn the basic principles of degustation and food and wine pairing in an exciting manner. Presented by the sommeliers of the Vieta wine bar, The degustation includes four different wines – sparkling wine, red wine, fortified wine, dessert wine, chocolates, water and freshly baked bread with butter.
From 1870, when the German businessman Theodore Rigert (Teodors Rigerts) founded his company in Riga and began to delight the people with chocolate delicacies, Laima continued its development until 2015, when the factory was sold to the Norwegian company “Orkla”. The chocolate museum and office were left established in Riga, Miera Street, while all the production process—including the modern equipment—was based in Ādaži.
At the very beginning, the company started its work with 4 employees—now, almost 1000 people are employed by the factory.
Laima chocolate is produced only from natural raw materials. The more natural the chocolate, the more cocoa butter it contains, and the more the chocolate is affected by environmental conditions – both temperature fluctuations and humidity. One of the natural characteristics of chocolate that appears under these conditions is white frost. Frosting chocolate is a challenge faced by all chocolate producers in the world and it is completely safe for consumption.
Laima’s chocolate official site offers unique recipes and interesting facts regarding the chocolate creation process combined with an exploratory journey on how the ancient Aztecs used cocoa beans. Did you know that the fresh cacao fruit smells like cucumber?
One of the most famous chocolate candies with liqueur filling – Prozit – was produced in the 1930s, followed by six more types: Dizzy cherries, Ladies’ tongues with liqueur, Cognac, Mocha liqueur with gelatin, Cognac No. 3, and Cocktail.
Both York’s Chocolate Story and Laima Chocolate Museum are two locations entirely devoted to chocolate, one of the most famous desserts known for its amazing qualities beneficial to health. In addition to cocoa being the highest natural source for Magnesium, chocolate contains essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium, together with vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E.
The dark chocolate variety has some impressive health benefits linked to its high cocoa content. A 2011 study found that the antioxidant capacity of the cocoa powder was significantly greater than blueberry, cranberry, and pomegranate powder on a per gram basis. It is important to note that the cocoa powders, cocoa beverages, and dark chocolates used in this study all contained natural (or non-alkalized) cocoa. The study concluded that cacao seeds should be considered a “Super Fruit” and products derived from cacao seed extracts, such as natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate, as “Super Foods”.
*additional source: York Chocolate Story booklet