If there’s one thing that will get our kids bouncing out of bed early during the summer holidays, it’s the promise of chocolate. Although we’ve visited in the past, we were all looking forward to a trip to York’s Chocolate Story, not only because of the novelty of visiting an indoor attraction again but also to report back on how the experience has changed in these strange Covid times.
As it’s a tour-led attraction, York’s Chocolate Story has always been somewhere that we’d recommend pre-booking. Now there’s no option: as with most places, you need to be organised and book your tickets ahead of time. Visitor numbers have been greatly reduced to decrease the risk; in fact, we had the first time slot of the day and were the only people on our tour! Having our knowledgeable tour guide to ourselves made for a more intimate experience as we stepped back in time and discovered more about York’s chocolate past.
As before, the tour begins outside a recreated traditional sweet shop with a general introduction to chocolate and what to expect from the tour. There’s little difference from before, aside from Joe – our genial guide – having his face covered and everyone having squeaky clean hands (there’s sanitiser at various points throughout the tour). After a short debate about which is the best chocolate bar (the KitKat v Crunchie argument continues to rage in our house), we hurtled back to the Aztec era and the history of cocoa before meeting York’s chocolate founders (Joseph Rowntree, Mary Craven and the like).
Our kids had been concerned that the safety measures might mean a lack of chocolate, so they were delighted to be offered their own little bag of samples to take home. Clutching them tightly, we moved onto the next room to find out more about York’s chocolate factories themselves and then the process of making chocolate. For once, all three of the children were quiet and listened as Joe brought the stories to life; as our 10 year-old put it ‘the guide was really good and made me want to listen’. Result.
The highlight of the tour – and the thing that the children were REALLY worried that they wouldn’t be able to do – was making their own lolly. Good news, then, that this is still an integral part of the experience. As always, they thoroughly enjoyed piling as many toppings as possible onto the chocolate, with little regard for making it look nice (what’s the point when it’s going to be devoured within the next 10 minutes?).
While the lollies set, we watched one of the chocolatiers making passion fruit chocolates. Dentists look away now: the kids particularly enjoyed seeing the ‘chocolate rain’ and wished they could stand under it with their mouths open.
As we headed back out into the city, chocolates in hand, we certainly felt that we’d learnt a lot, from York’s connection with chocolate to making the perfect ganache and how many sprinkles you can fit on a lolly (a lot). The subtle safety measures haven’t taken anything away from the experience, and York’s Chocolate Story remains one of our top family-friendly attractions in York. Sweet.