Real-life Wonka: 5 chocolate factory tours that will put a smile on your face
Farm-to-table sounds quaint compared to these indulgent treats you can eat straight from the source.
Planning out your summer travels? Whether you are meandering along the Mediterranean, train-hopping through Europe or taking a road trip in the U.S., be sure to include at least one of these chocolate makers on your list. These factories have embraced their regions and stayed true to their roots. And ... oh, the chocolate.
1. Olive & Sinclair, United States
In Nashville, Tennessee, Olive & Sinclair is churning out southern-inspired confections that are worthy of a destination trip. “With O&S, we kind of wanted everything to be inherently southern, but more importantly we wanted things to make sense from a cook or a chef’s point of view and we were able to marry those two,” said founder Scott Witherow. One of O&S’s most popular items right now is bourbon nib brittle. “Our tours sell out every week," he said. "It is informative but it is also fun and interactive.”
Witherow promised that you’ll get to taste and smell the chocolate as it moves through every stage of development. “You can smell the cacao as it is roasted and taste the beans in their freshly roasted state and taste the cacao liquor. You get to taste everything that we do.” While there, check out the sliceable Chocuterie, which Witherow said was inspired by charcuterie plates and “wanting to have something that is a little bit easier to share.”
2. Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory, Switzerland
Maison Cailler is nestled between the stately Swiss Alp peaks in the picturesque town of Broc. Founded in the 19th century, the factory bills itself as the oldest in Switzerland. The chocolatiers are fiercely dedicated to using local ingredients, such as milk from cows that graze in nearby fields. Choose from a wide variety of classes where you can make your own chocolate bars and transform truffles into your dream flavor combinations. Keep in mind that you’ll be doing all this while surrounded by the stunning Swiss Alps. A pre- or post-chocolate factory hike or ski, depending on the time of year, can help you ease the guilt of your chocolate indulgence.
3. De Karina Chocolate Factory, Israel
The Chaplinsky family has been making chocolate for three generations, first in Argentina and now in Israel, where they moved 13 years ago. At De Karina, the most popular praline is the Mount Hermon, a milk chocolate cone shell with a decadent dulce de leche filling named after Israel’s highest mountain. “It looks like Mount Hermon in winter – the white chocolate on top is like the snow,” Yarden Gol, a tour guide at the factory in Israel, told From The Grapevine. “It is bigger than most of our pralines and it is really special. It represents our past in Argentina and our present here in Israel.”
The exquisite design of each piece will take your breath away. Chocolate truffles are delicately painted with a Jackson Pollock-like flick of a white chocolate drizzle. Tours of the chocolate factory are offered where you can learn its history and see how these precious pralines are prepared. De Karina also offers a workshop where you can try your own hand at being a chocolatier. Most importantly, Gol added, “everyone leaves the workshop with a really big smile.”
4. Perugina Chocolate Factory, Italy
A chocolatier at Perugina works on a fresh batch of Baci. (Photo: Perugina Chocolate Factory)
Italy may be known for its pasta, but don’t miss the chance to peruse the Perugina Chocolate Factory in central Italy. The blue-and-white wrapped Baci chocolate earned its name due to its shape – Baci means kisses in Italian. Perugina has its own chocolate school where you have the opportunity to work with master chocolatiers. A favorite is the “Baci Perugina: Say it with a Kiss” class, where you’ll make Baci chocolates to take home. Best of all, you don’t have to travel to Italy to experience the magic of Perugina. Chocolate crafting classes are offered in New York City and Chicago as well.
5. Zaabär Chocolate Factory, Belgium
The white truffle curry and coconut, the dark chocolate ganache with cinnamon from Ceylon, and the dark truffle pink pepper and Brazilian nuts at Zaabär. (Photo: Laura Watilo Blake/FarFlungTravels.com)
Belgians are known for their chocolate, and Zaabär Chocolate Factory does not disappoint. Launched in 2007, Zaabär blends traditional Belgian chocolate with spices found around the world. Laura Watilo Blake, founder of FarFlungTravels.com, attended a workshop at Zaabär. “I spent three heavenly hours inside Zaabär inhaling the intoxicating scent of warm, melted chocolate,” Blake told From the Grapevine. “We made all sorts of creations, including chocolate bars with toppings of our choice.” Blake described some of the imaginative flavor combinations featured at Zaabär, including the White Truffle Curry and Coconut, "which has white chocolate ganache with curry, finely coated with white chocolate and coconut” and a “dark chocolate ganache with cinnamon from Ceylon, finely coated with dark chocolate and Belgian Speculoos cookie.”
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