Field Trip to the Chocolate Factory

It’s field trip Friday and today we really felt like Charlie when we went to visit a chocolate factory in a nearby town! The hour long tour started with a video on the history of chocolate, which was really interesting. I’m always intrigued to think about the first person to decide to try a food. I mean, who looked at that funky cocoa bean pod and said, “hmm, if I take out these seeds and dry them for 5 days, then grind them to a powder I’ll have something delicious on my hands?” According to the video, the Aztecs were the first to have this stroke of genius. They mixed cocoa powder with water and made the world’s first hot chocolate called chocolatl. Montezuma apparently drank up to 50 cups a day of the stuff! My kids decided a frozen version would be better in the 90 degree heat.

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Once we saw the video we started our actual tour, hair nets and all. While the company once had a huge factory and even contracted for the likes of Hershey, Mars, and Nestle, they sold all that off and today have a small factory that makes artisan chocolates. The man who started the business actually went to college with my grandfather, and with an engineering background he designed all the machinery specifically for their factory. He also invented the mold to make those chocolate oranges that fall into slices when you whack them on a counter.

We also got to sample several kinds of chocolates and learn about just how chocolate is made. The kids enjoyed pretending to be judges on the Food Network as our guide encouraged us to smell the chocolate and listen to the snap it makes when you break it before we ate. We were also supposed to let the chocolate melt in our mouths before swallowing, but it was really HARD. Nothing is as good as finely made chocolate!

To be honest, I never realized there were so many factories near us. Our town is big in service industries and shipping, but apparently there are a lot of really cool little factories that are doing international business right in our backyard. I got ideas on where to go by visiting this site that shows factories by state and city. Check it out and see what gems you can find near you. You might even get to leave with a bag full of yummy treats like we did today. Best field trip Friday so far!

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