By Melissa Wynn

When cocoa beans first found their way into England in the 1650’s they were primarily brewed into a gruel like drink. This fancy new delicacy from South and Central America and the West Indies was enjoyed only by the wealthy aristocrats of that time period and was very different from the chocolate we all enjoy today. In the 1800’s a young entrepreneur named John Cadbury from Birmingham England revolutionized the cocoa industry when he developed several recipes for what came to be known as “eating chocolate.” Refined plain, molded chocolate and bars grew in popularity but it was the candies of chocolate covered fruit, cream and nutty centers known as “fancy chocolates” that fast became the coveted gift of the English upper class. Cadbury sold the fancy chocolates in assorted flavors, as we buy them today, packaged in decorated boxes.

Valentines Chocolates

From simple boxes with picture cut outs for children to velvet covered, silk lined keepsake boxes for Queen Victoria herself, the box of chocolates would forever become a part of gift giving traditions.

Candy boxes from that Victorian age continue to be highly collectible and the heart shaped box has continued to represent Valentines Day for centuries.

Today the art of chocolate making is still going strong and we all still hope for a heart shaped box of quality chocolates on the day set aside for love.

Lucky for us, Northern California is dotted with artisan chocolatiers still practicing this popular craft.

Although mass produced boxes of chocolates line the shelves of big box retailers, it is these small  shops that continue to refine and perfect the art of chocolate making that made John Cadbury famous.

In Paradise California the folks at  Joy Lyn’s Candies are hard at work, hand dipping their unique line of signature centers in carefully tempered chocolate, creating two small bites of melt in your mouth perfection. Hand pick your loved ones favorites or mix it up with dark, white and milk chocolate treasures.

If sugar free is more your style Darlene’s in Paradise may be the shop for you. Along with an outstanding choice of traditional hand made sweets this local favorite offers their entire line of fine hand dipped chocolates, ice creams, gelato and other treats in a sugar free version.

For generations the family at Shubert’s has been making Chico California just a little bit sweeter for the locals. Although most famous for their home made ice cream and gelato, it is their own line of fine chocolates, carefully packaged in heart shaped boxes that make Valentines Day so special.

A visit to Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, also in Chico, is like taking a ride in a candy time machine. The shelves are lined with nostalgic favorites from decades past. From the finest hand made chocolates to custom printed, message candy hearts you are sure to find the perfect sweets to for your special Valentine.

When John Cadbury placed those first fancy chocolates in a decorated box he started a tradition that now spans the globe. Show those you love how sweet they are to you this Valentines Day with a hand picked box of the North State’s finest chocolates.