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Tours for chocolate lovers not just about sampling sweets

By Beth Harpaz  /  AP, NEW YORK

A group from A Slice of Brooklyn chocolate tour are pictured in April on a visit to Raaka Chocolate in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, New York. Facilities manager Sophie Berman, wearing a green cap, is shown discussing the chocolate-making process.

Photo: AP

A tour for chocolate lovers in Brooklyn, New York, isn’t just about tasting the final product. It also gives a peek at factories, neighborhoods and even business plans.

The chocolate tour offered by A Slice of Brooklyn takes visitors to four chocolate-makers around Brooklyn. “I love chocolate,” said Christine Dietz of San Diego, who was treated to the tour by friends throwing her a bachelorette party in New York. “But it’s really cool that we also get a bit of a tour of the city.”

But A Slice of Brooklyn’s chocolate tour is also part of a bigger trend. Confectioners and tour companies around the country are offering chocolate tours catering not just to the public’s sweet tooth, but also to consumer interest in learning where the products they eat and drink come from.

EDUCATING CONSUMERS

“Customers care about what they put in their mouths — especially millennials and GenXers,’’ said Pam Williams, founder of the online academy Ecole Chocolat School of Professional Chocolate Arts. “They want to know where their food comes from and how it is processed.”

And while everybody knows that wine comes from grapes, “very, very few actually understand that chocolate comes from the seeds of a tree,” said Williams, who is also co-founder of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association. Inviting customers “into the factory to see the beans and the machinery that turn those beans into chocolate is a very good way to educate consumers on fine chocolate.”

FROM HERSHEY’S TO HIPSTERS

The granddaddy of US chocolate tours is Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It’s hosted more than 100 million guests since opening in 1973. The free tour takes guests on rides following chocolate from bean to bar, with treats and singing cows along the way.

But chocolate tours are offered in many other destinations around the country, from factories to visits with artisanal chocolatiers. Just be sure to plan ahead, as some tours are offered only on certain days and times and some require reservations. Some are free, but others are pricey. The Brooklyn tour is US$50.

Mars Chocolate (makers of M&Ms, Snickers and Dove) offers tours and tastings of its Ethel M premium chocolate brand at the Ethel M factory in Henderson, Nevada, near the Las Vegas strip.

Theo Chocolate welcomes more than 50,000 visitors a year to its Seattle factory . The tour shows how the brand sources organic fair-trade beans, right through the bar-making process.

In Oregon, Portland Walking Tours’ Chocolate Decadence tour visits multiple chocolatiers for tastings in every form: whipped, melted, liquid, beans, bars and more.

Lake Champlain Chocolates offers free factory tours and tastings in Burlington, Vermont.

In Somerville, Massachusetts, Taza Chocolate offers an Intro to Stone Ground Chocolate factory tour , and for children under 10, a Chocolate Story Time weekend mornings.

In Connecticut, you can even take a train from Thomaston to experience Fascia’s Chocolate Factory tours in Waterbury, with wine and chocolate pairings along the way.

Even in New York, A Slice of Brooklyn only skims the cream off the city’s chocolate offerings. Consider tours at Mast Brothers in Williamsburg , Brooklyn; the soon-to-open Harlem Chocolate Factory ; and the 5,000-square-foot Jacques Torres Chocolate Museum in Manhattan.

SLICE OF BROOKLYN TOUR

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