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Museum dedicated to hot chocolate opens in Sudbury

PUBLISHED: 13:14 12 January 2017 | UPDATED: 13:14 12 January 2017

Marimba chocolate shop has opened a Museum of Hot Chocolate in Sudbury. Pictured are owner and curator David Wright and shop manager Feriyalle Sharm.

Marimba chocolate shop has opened a Museum of Hot Chocolate in Sudbury. Pictured are owner and curator David Wright and shop manager Feriyalle Sharm.

A Suffolk chocolatier is on a mission to prove that Britain is not just a nation of tea drinkers.

A packet of cocoa dating from the 1940s which is from a former grocery shop in Stoke-by-ClareA packet of cocoa dating from the 1940s which is from a former grocery shop in Stoke-by-Clare

David Wright, whose business is based in Sudbury, has recently been researching the history of hot chocolate and has discovered its popularity as a hot drink dates back more than 400 years in this country.

Such is his enthusiasm, he is writing a book about it and has just opened a museum dedicated entirely to hot chocolate.

Mr Wright and his family originally opened Marimba chocolate café in Borehamgate Precinct in 2008, and shortly after began making their own luxury hot chocolate in a room behind their shop opposite the cafe.

Mr Wright said: “We initially spent a couple of years trying other people’s hot chocolate in the café, but when we couldn’t find any we liked sufficiently, we decided to make it ourselves.

The museum in Sudbury's Borehamgate PrecinctThe museum in Sudbury's Borehamgate Precinct

“We started off making the chocolate in the room behind our shop, but we outgrew the space and moved production to Bury St Edmunds.

“At the same time, I became interested in the history of hot chocolate and I started looking for a book on the subject, but couldn’t find one, so I started writing one myself.

“During my research I discovered so many interesting things that I thought they would make a good display.

“I have gathered together some exhibits that are 170 years old, right up to some from the 1950s and set up a museum at the back of the shop in the room where we used to make the chocolate.”

The Museum of Hot Chocolate charts the history of hot cocoa from the early civilisations of central America, through the Spanish conquistadors to more than 400 years of chocolate beverages in the UK.

The important moments and little known facts in the rise of the nation’s favourite hot drinks are presented in a graphic timeline, accompanied by exhibits including packaging, advertising materials and utensils for making hot cocoa – some of them more than 150 years old.

Items of particular interest to local people include a cocoa pack from the 1940s that was produced by a grocery store in Stoke-by-Clare which did deliveries, called G. Bean and Son.

Mr Wright added: “Family businesses were responsible for the development of hot chocolate over the years, and so the history was especially interesting for us to research.

“It has been interesting to see how the cocoa trade has developed, and to pay tribute to the innovators over the years who made sure that cocoa is such an important part of Britain’s diet.”

The museum is open from 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday and admission is free.

The Museum of Hot Chocolate reveals that:

• Chocolate has been used as a currency, a medicine and as a carrier for poison

• Manufacturers in the 19th century struggled to control hot chocolate’s fattiness

• Polar explorers relied on cocoa for their energy

• The Temperance Movement put hot cocoa at the heart of its Cocoa Rooms

• Some of Britain’s biggest hot chocolate brands are now just memories – including Churchman’s, Taylor Brothers and Epps

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