The original energy bar: from a small English town to Mount Everest

What do the English town of Kendal and Mount Everest have in common? Well, more than you might think.

But more about that later. First, Kendal. This historic trade town in northern England is famous for a couple of things. Its medieval castle is one of them, and so are the many ‘yards’ in the town centre, which were built to support the 18th century local wool trade. However, to most Brits Kendal is best known for its mint cake. The term cake might be a bit misleading, though, because this iconic sweet snack is actually a bar of minty solidified sugar and glucose.

The origins of the Kendal mint cake

Kendal and mint cake go way back. In fact, the confection was first created here in 1869. It’s in that year that a certain Joseph Wiper from the northern English town of Kendal leaves a boiling solution for glacier mints overnight. The following morning, he finds a solidified and cloudy block of ‘mint cake’ in his kitchen. The Kendal mint cake is born. Joseph, who is married into the local Thompson family of confectioners, starts selling the mint cake and word of its creation spreads quickly.

A tin of Quiggin's Kendal Mint Cake on a gingham table cloth     An open tin of Quiggin's Kendal Mint Cake on a gingham cloth

Quiggin's: mint cakes since 1872

The mint cake turns out to have a number of popular qualities: it’s not only utterly refreshing, but also a great source for a quick energy boost. It’s not long until several other businesses in Kendal start producing mint cakes too. One of them is Quiggin’s.

Having just moved to Kendal from the Isle of Man in 1872, Daniel Quiggin is intrigued by the local delicacy that is mint cake. His family has already been making confections since 1840, so he is not new to the profession. He decides to take up the production of mint cakes. His business is the first one in Kendal to cover mint cakes in chocolate, something that soon gains popularity.

Tins and packs of Romney's Kendal Mint Cake on a wooden table

From Kendal to Mount Everest

To this day, Quiggin’s is the oldest surviving mint cake company in Kendal. But they’re by no means the only ones in town to still make this typical confection. Fellow mint cake makers Romney’s have been producing them here since 1918. Romey’s mint cakes are immortalised in history when they are carried on the first successful summit of Mount Everest in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sirdar Tenzing. It’s partly thanks to them that mint cakes become a go-to item for mountaineers and hikers across the world, who swear by this refreshing and compact energy bar.

And so it is that a 150-year-old delicacy from a small English town continues to be a source of energy for many a mountaineer around the world. Mount Everest hasn’t seen the last of the Kendal mint cake.