Quality Street - The Festive Treat?
When did Quality Street become so linked to Christmas?
I hardly think of them at any other time of year, but as soon as it becomes a BER month (any month ending in ber) my mind starts quickly thinking about Orange Creams and the purple one.
There is something very nostalgic about lifting the tin lid of a Quality Street and getting that heady waft of chocolate which almost assaults the olfactory senses. Looking at the brightly wrapped cellophane sweets in gorgeous jewel colours, a feast for the eyes, and we haven't even started eating them yet!
There is a hot debate every single year on which sweet is everyone’s favourite, is it the Green Triangle? (Not for me), a Strawberry Cream (too sickly for me, but my Mum's fave), the Coconut one (his nibs loves these) or the Toffee Penny (mini 70s house snaffles these). For me? I love the Orange Cream and the Purple nut in caramel which is consistently voted the nations favourite.
But where did Quality Street originate from?
Quality Street were first made (and continue to be made) in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Named after a J.M Barrie play, they first hit the shelves way back in 1936 and predate their rivals Cadbury Roses by a whole two years.
In the early 1930s, only the richest could afford boxed chocolates. Harold Macintosh wanted to produce a box of chocolates that could be sold at reasonable prices to working class families. These would be individually wrapped in attractive, but low cost packaging, namely a decorative tin.
Britain was still feeling the effects of the economic crash in the 30s and Mackintosh realised that in times of economic hardship, people crave nostalgia. In comes the iconic Regency style characters that remained part of the Quality Street design until 2000. Miss Sweetly and Major Quality can still be seen on vintage Quality Street tins that you can often find holding sewing equipment or other household detritus at car boot fairs.
One of my favourite Quality Street facts is has anyone ever wondered why the Purple one is a hazelnut in caramel, when, in fact the chocolate is shaped like a Brazil nut? War time rationing meant that most confectionary production ceased, however Macintosh continued to make Quality Street in limited numbers, swapping the original Brazil nut for a Hazelnut due to wartime shortages, post war the hazelnut remains, yet the traditional shape of the chocolate still harks back to the 1930s when it did in fact contain a Brazil nut!
I love to buy the old tins, and often decant new sweets into old tins to display and use. They are so evocative of my childhood during the 70s and 80s where chocolate in a tin was still a huge treat for all the family. My parents and their parents before them would buy a tin and it would remain, untouched, until Christmas Eve when you could FINALLY open it after eyeballing it for weeks. I wonder how many other families can recount the same tradition of certain speciality foods being bought weeks before hand and then finally being allowed to eat them as a treat on Christmas Eve?
My festive ode to Quality Street
So linked are these chocolates to Christmas in my psyche that this year I decided to play homage to the chocolates themselves and created a matching outside door decoration and inside covered our arch with huge handmade replicas.
It is a joy to watch the children walk past pointing out which ones are their favourites, wishing that they were real chocolate inside.
Each 'chocolate' is made from thick carboard boxes, which I saved postal packaging for months. I made card shapes, which I stuck together with heavy duty tape and then covered with thick catering foil and finally wrapped them up in their cellophane finery. It comes as a bitter sweet ending as Quality Street is now transitioning to a more eco conscious recycled paper packaging. In which i applaud for the planet, however my nostalgic self with always long for the jewel like cellophane wrappers of my child hood which I would carefully save, flatten out and turn into crafting papers, making all manner of childhood creative messes, including flowers and even 3D glasses!
Forgotten Quality Street?
Over the years some of the original flavours have been discontinued. I still heavily mourn the loss of the Coffee Cream which was the same size and shape as the Strawberry cream, but in a brown wrapper. But who remembers the Gooseberry Cream? Fig Fancy? or the Apricot Delight?
One thing is for sure, over 85 years after they were first introduced Quality Street remain as popular today as they were when they were first introduced.