The Swiss and Belgian aren’t the only ones making luxury hand-made chocolate. Britain boasts some of the world’s best chocolatiers.
After Eight Mint Chocolate Thins were created by Graham Edwards Rowntree and Company Limited in 1962 and manufactured by Nestle since 1988, one billion wafer-thin dark chocolate mints are made annually. The box’s iconic logo comes from the clock in the company boardroom. Nobody knows where the clock is. Some of the early advertising wasn’t exactly PC. “ A woman’s place is in the home, eating After Eights and looking beautiful.” Rowntree’s produced “Black Magic” boxed chocolates in 1933.
Quintessentially British, although now German-owned. The Bendicks of Mayfair chocolate coating contains 95% cocoa solids. In 1962, the chocolates were awarded the coveted Royal Warrant: “By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen.” A feature of Bittermints was that they could be purchased in 9 inch, 18 inch, and 36-inch boxes. By the yard. The chocolate mints come individually wrapped. Named after founders, Oscar Benson and Colonel Bertie Dickson. The former’s sister-in-law Lucia came up with the recipe.
Swiss baker and confectioner Fritz Butzer arrived in England to seek his fortune in 1907. But lost the address of his destination. All he could remember was that the place he was expected at sounded like ‘bratwurst.’ He was put on a train to Bradford in Yorkshire, where he found work at the Swiss-owned confectioners, Bonnet & Sons. In 1919, he opened his first shop in York, which was to become the confectionery capital. Favorites include Chocolate Desires – hand-piped discs topped with fruit and nuts.
Before its launch in 1935, the Swiss dominated the milk chocolate market after Daniel Peter’s invention of 1875. The famous company started in a Birmingham grocer’s shop in 1824. Early cocoas and drinking chocolates were called “ Icelandic Moss” and “Churchman’s Chocolate.” TV adverts in the 70s featured James Bond stuntmen delivering the boxes. Cadbury created the first box of lidded chocolates in 1916. Cadbury merged with the Bristol firm JS Fry (est.1822), whose Chocolate Creams were launched in 1866 and rose-flavored Turkish delight in 1914. The first solid chocolate bar and filled chocolate sweet, Fry’s, also made the first UK Easter Egg in 1873.
Charbonnel & Walker hold the other Royal Warrant as chocolate manufacturers to Her Majesty, the Queen. Who must have a very sweet tooth? Founded in 1875 with encouragement from Edward VII, (then the Prince of Wales), the original shop opened at 173 New Bond Street in Mayfair, London and has remained in Bond Street ever since. Available through US retailers like Saks, Neiman Marcus, and Sur La Table. Mme Charbonnat worked for Maison Boissier in Paris. Sir Noel Coward had a beautifully presented box of chocolates delivered to him every fortnight.
Founded by a Swiss exile in 1910, Guilbert’s is still making assorted chocolates in Bristol. Its centenary tins depict parts of the city. The classic selection includes chocolate stem ginger, floral creams, peppermint creams, raspberry and strawberry creams, and crystallized fondants.
A basket of chocolates was allegedly given by an Aztec chief to Christopher Columbus on one of his early voyages to Mesoamerica and the Aztec civilization. Early conquistadors like Hernan Cortez observed chocolate, or xocoatl being enjoyed in the court of Montezuma. Ex-lawyers Helen and Simon Pattinson make their luxury range in Sussex. Their “Happy Hour” includes cocktail truffles – Strawberry Champagne. Prosecco, Margarita, and Brandy Alexander as well as chocolate buttons, truffles, gift boxes for all occasions, and vegan chocolates.
Based in York like Rowntree’s, the now French-owned company goes back to 1767. Terry’s Chocolate Oranges were launched in 1932 and “All Gold” at about the same time.
Based in Alfreton, Derbyshire, Thornton has been making hand-crafted premium chocolates or over 100 years. William Thornton opened up a sweet shop in Sheffield, Yorkshire, later entrusting the business to his 14‐year‐old son Norman. With his brother, Stanley, Norman created quirky, sweet treats like ‘Violet Cachous,’ ‘Sweet Lips,’ and ‘Phul-Nanas.’ It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the brothers starting making their hand‐made chocolate truffles, crystallized fondants, and their special toffee. You can your message iced or created by alphabet squares for a personalized present for the most ardent chocoholic.
Another old family confectioner, now into its fifth generation. It started in 1889 as a grocery and draper’s shop in a remote Yorkshire village. Ida Whitaker was taught to make chocolates by the local vicar’s wife. The company now produces ten million chocolates a week. Including wafer thins, truffle spheres, chocolate hearts, honeycomb bites, and the company’s “Signature” collections such as Assorted Luxury Mint, Dark Chocolate Orange & lemon Creams, and Dark Chocolate Rose * Violet Creams.