Was there ever anything that made you feel as sophisticated as offering around a packet of After Eights once your meal was over? (Obviously I mean a meal where people outside your immediate family were invited; After Eights were far too posh to just have after your usual, everyday tea…) In the 1980s, placing a box of thin little mint chocolates in their own individual wrappers on the dining table was the epitome of successful living. And it was always good to have your own private bet over which of your relatives would come up with the obvious joke of ‘After Eights? But it’s only seven thirty five!’ Ha ha.
Gracing dinner tables up and down the country since 1962 (the first aspirational television advertisement for them appeared a year later, in 1963), After Eights were originally produced by Rowntree and Company Ltd and made at their factory in York. A master confectioner, Brian Sollitt, who was working in the ‘Crème Experimentation Department’ at Rowntree’s was given the mission of coming up with a new peppermint fondant chocolate. He was told to keep it ‘top secret’ and it was; even today nobody outside the After Eight-making-process knows how the rich, dark chocolate that encases the peppermint centre stops the fondant from seeping its way out. Not exactly the plotline of a thriller movie, but a perplexing brain teaser, non-the-less.
Sollitt worked on many of our favourite chocolate bars during his time with Rowntree’s, including Matchmakers, Lion Bars, Yorkies and Black Magic but he was fondest of all of After Eights and, even though he’d retired at this point, took it on himself to create a three kilo chocolate for After Eight’s fiftieth anniversary in 2012.
In 1970 production transferred to a new factory in Castleford in West Yorkshire and in 1988 Nestlé bought Rowntree’s and took over the After Eights brand. They are currently made from a Nestlé’s factory in West Yorkshire.
One billion wafer thin (I can’t use that phrase without saying it in a faux French accent, à la Monty Python’s hideous Mr Creosote sketch) After Eight mints are made each year (that’s a lot of dinner parties) and they are sold in more than fifty countries throughout the world. Nestlé says on its website that sales data from 2012 shows that ‘out of every two mint chocolates savoured, one is After Eight’, making it the leading mint chocolate brand.
The After Eight range has been added to over the years, with the After Eight Collection (featuring dark and white mint chocolates), After Eight Bitesize (small dark chocolate cubes filled with mint fondant) and the Catering Pack (for ‘larger dinner parties or restaurant customers’) all available alongside the Classic Carton. Nestlé have also occasionally produced a limited edition, such as the mint and blood orange After Eight, the After Eight biscuit and a milk chocolate version.
And if you want to be really swish then you don’t have to just serve After Eights as they come…the After Eights website (which is as classy as the chocolates themselves) has a whole recipe book for delicious sounding desserts (all mint chocolate based, obviously). Mint and vanilla sundae, butter croissant pudding with mint chocolate custard or mint and vanilla cheesecake anybody? With perhaps an After Eight to finish?