Chocolate making returns to Terry’s: 15 things you need to know

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Aerial view of the former Terry’s factory in York, with the Liquor Store highlighted in red. Photograph: Bing Maps. Click to see a bigger image

York will be full of beans on hearing the news that chocolate making could return to the Terry’s factory site within a year. It’s the brainchild of Sophie Jewett, whose York Cocoa House celebrates its third birthday on Monday. Here’s everything you need to know…

1. It’s been years in the planning

Sophie dreamed up the idea of bringing confectionery production back to Terry’s – which closed in 2005 – before she launched the Cocoa House.

She first raised it with Grantside, the original developers, in January 2010, and was taken on a tour of the site.

That came to nothing, but about 18 months ago she got in touch with the new owners Henry Boot. “They were great, they were very responsive,” she said.

2. The building has quite the history

The new factory would be housed in what was once known as the Liquor Store at Terry’s factory.

That was built between 1924 and 1930 by architects JG Davies and LE Wade. It sits behind the main factory and across from the clock tower, and is grade II listed.

During its Terry’s days, raw cocoa beans would come in one end of the building and be carried along by conveyor belt to be batch roasted. Something very similar is now planned for the future.

3. But it needs a lot of work

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“Like most of the site,” Sophie said, “the lead’s been stolen off the roof, so there has been an element of vandalism leaving it open to the elements.”

However the inside has some beautiful tile work which will be preserved. “But it does need a lot of cleaning up, making good, removing the weeds and the birds who have decided to make it their home.”

“It needs life and love being brought back into it.”

4. The vision is ambitious

Under a project called The York Chocolate Works, the liquor store would become a working chocolate factory again.

It has a footprint of 2,000 sq ft, a basement, a mezzanine, and the plan is to install another floor.

Cocoa beans would be roasted, ground and turned into high quality chocolate here. And parties of visitors would be able to watch the whole process, bean to bar.

“The key objectives for us are that we can make quality, credible chocolate that people can see, engage with and learn how it’s made,” Sophie told YorkMix.

“And we can do that in a setting which helps us tell a wider story of some of the heritage components and unlock exactly what Terry’s as a company, and what chocolate as an industry, has meant to our city and community.”

5. That comes at a price

The cost is estimated at £1.3 million. “That is coming from a number of different sources and that is to deliver the whole project, fully functioning.”

The plan is to buy the liquor store outright, Sophie said. “Our objective is to secure the purchase of the building. We’ve been working with a Sheffield-based organisation called the Key Fund.

“They work to support socially-minded businesses to develop and help them with the infrastructure and assistance that they need.”

6. 25 jobs will be created in the first phases

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The initial manufacturing workforce will be 15, and these jobs would be created in the first year.

A further ten jobs on the educational side will follow in phase two of the project. That’s in addition to the 20 people now employed by the Cocoa House.

Sophie will be looking to recruit former Terry’s workers. You can register your interest by sending an email to Sophie, or via the York Chocolate Works website.

One of the Cocoa House chocolatiers, Eddie, is a former Terry’s worker and shares stories of those days with visitors.

“We don’t have those jobs ready to go as yet,” said Sophie. “But we’re always really keen to hear from those people.

“The one line we have heard constantly is, ‘if it opened tomorrow I’d go back’.”

7. Terry’s history will be honoured…

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“We’ve been extremely lucky to have access to some of the original moulds and processes – as well as the stories that people have told us,” said Sophie.

“There will certainly be an element of that heritage reflected in the development of the business.”

8. …But this is also about the future

“We’re not trying to create a museum. We want to be inspired by that heritage.

“We’re really passionate about making sure we can tell this story and the city’s story in a way that makes the industry robust for the future.”

9. The product will be genuine York chocolate

At the moment, York Cocoa House is a chocolatier, not a chocolate maker.

It imports about 50 tonnes of Belgian chocolate each year, and uses it to create all its delicious sweet treats.

But at the new factory they will create genuine York-made chocolate, by taking raw cocoa beans and turning them into the finished product.

Sophie says they plan to create dark chocolate with “single origin flavours” – including orange – and hot chocolate for drinking.

They will also rise to the challenge of “creating a modest-scale but quality milk chocolate”.

10. It has the Terry seal of approval

“I met with the Terry family a few months ago and shared with them where we were going and what we were doing,” said Sophie.

Do they endorse the project?

“When we announce the full board that’s working on it then yes – without giving too much away or promising too much, we’ve been working with some of the Rowntree’s family, some of the Terry’s family, some of the Cadbury family.

“We believe that we can create a team of like-minded individuals, families and organisations across the city who are keen to make sure that our chocolate heritage and what it means to the city is not lost.”

11. The whole city can have a share

York people will be able to buy into the enterprise. “One of the key components is giving people the opportunity to be part of it as a project.

“There will be a point when we invite the community of York to own a part of their chocolate factory. There will be shareholder options in the business.”

12. It will also be ethically run

The works will be run on a cooperative model so everyone involved can have their say how it is run.

This is another way the new venture will mirror the old – and the philanthropic ways of the Terry family.

“Joseph Terry himself was a massive contributor to the city – he was Lord Mayor four times and did so many good things for the city. And the industry has done that in York.”

13. Today York… tomorrow the world

Sophie says this might only be the start. She would like to grow the York Cocoa House: “We’ve got our own ideas of how it will work, to expand that into other locations around the country. But we want to get York great first.”

Initially she plans to sell York chocolate made at Terry’s direct to consumers and to businesses like hotels and restaurants.

But there’s no limit how far it might go. “Terry’s were exporting over a hundred years ago.

“We are very conscious that we have a very strong emerging market in China and the Middle East, a strong demand for chocolate at a higher quality level.”

The plan is to get the project working on a local level first, but then “there’s a real opportunity for us to take that York name and promote York as a product across the world”.

14. They’re not planning to hang about

The Henry Boot proposal for the Chocolate Works also includes homes, a hotel and offices. This scheme will need planning approval.

Then the liquor store has to be cleared up and restored.

So when will the first York-made premium chocolate roll off the production line?

“We’re really hoping for Christmas next year. We know that’s very ambitious. If it’s not for Christmas then it will be for Easter 2016.”

15. It will be a big moment for the city

Sophie is very aware of the responsibility she has taken on, but believes the time is right.

“When we talk to people it’s so clear what that building means, what that iconic tower means. When we approach the city it’s like a lighthouse that we see, that memory of home.

How have people responded to the idea?

“It’s been tremendous. Maybe we are on to something.”