The chocolatey yolk of York

While eating a candy or a chocolate, have you ever wondered how it was invented, and where it came from? This is the story of a wonder such as that. “Have a break. Have a KitKat” is a world-famous catchphrase originating in 1958, and this is the story of delving into the rich history of the hometown of KitKat, the city of York. Invented in 1935 and originally known as ‘Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp’, it is a story of ingenuity and ensuring there is as little wastage in the manufacturing process as possible.

Nestled in the heart of North Yorkshire, England, the enchanting city of York is a living testament to the nation’s rich history and cultural heritage. With a storied past that dates to Roman times and a captivating array of medieval architecture, York offers visitors a glimpse into the country’s past while also embracing a vibrant contemporary lifestyle.

Views of York from the River Ouse
Walking past the River Ouse in York

Before we get to the chocolatey bits, its impossible to not talk about the York Minster first. The city’s stunning Gothic cathedral is a masterpiece of architectural brilliance that took more than two centuries to complete. Standing tall as a symbol of York’s spiritual and cultural significance, the Minster’s intricate stained-glass windows and awe-inspiring interior left me in awe. This has so far been the most beautiful cathedral that I have visited, and the entry pass of £14 for students (£16 for adults and free for children 17 and below) is absolutely a bargain for the many hours you can spend here.

As an engineer, one of the most intriguing things about York Minster is the fact that it is built upon the foundation of Roman ruins, which can be visited in the undercroft of the cathedral. During a 1967 survey of the cathedral, it was found that it was slowly collapsing under its own weight, which resulted in a restoration and strengthening work for the foundation. The work that was done is very impressive, and the displays of the Roman artefacts and columns in the undercroft tell a story of a 2000-year history of the city.

Moving on to the chocolate, I took a tour of a York’s chocolate story, which started with the history of cacao seeds mixed with chilies, water, and cornmeal, known as “xocolatl” or bitter water to the Mayans from where it originates. There were samples of this “bitter water” which tasted nothing like the sweet or bitter treats of today. There was a lot of history lessons about how intricate and intertwined the history of chocolate is to the city of York. I also got the chance to make my own chocolate lollipop which is shown below!

Two chocolate lollipops being prepared on a table
Making my own chocolate lollipops!

Walking along the well-preserved city walls of York, I traced the city’s Roman and medieval past. The walls, dating back to the 3rd century AD, offer a unique perspective of York’s layout and its historical development. While strolling on these ancient fortifications, I caught glimpses of historic landmarks, charming gardens, and bustling streets during the golden hours of sunset.

By the time my journey to York was about to come to an end, the sun had set, but a whole new perspective opened. Multicoloured lights sprung up everywhere, lighting up the city in a timeless beauty. Walking through the narrow pathways with its many shops and quaint architecture felt surreal. York stands as a testament to the resilience of the past and the promise of the future, making it a must-visit destination for people of all interests and backgrounds, but especially if you’re as much of a fan of chocolate as I am!