When phenylethylamine, a neurotransmitter that fosters the euphoric feelings of love, was discovered in cocoa beans, many people believed that the physiological source of our passionate love for chocolate had finally been traced. Biochemists have since refuted the significance of this link, but the cultural importance of chocolate in romantic love remains undisputed. In other words, gentlemen: on Valentine's Day, if you haven't gotten her roses, you'd better have chocolates.
You can double the sweetness of your Valentine's Day by touring one of the many chocolate factories that open their doors to visitors. Free samples of freshly made artisan chocolate are an essential part of the experience. To get you started, we present five factory tours in various cities around the US.
Anthony Thomas Chocolates in Columbus, Ohio, actually designed its factory with visitor tours in mind: you view (and smell) the chocolate-making from a catwalk suspended above the manufacturing floor. Eight production lines make 25,000 pounds of chocolate during every shift.
Near Chicago, Long Grove Confectionary Company, featured elsewhere on our website, conducts factory tours at its facility in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. While tours (normally $2 per person) are free on Saturday, the company can't guarantee production hours on Saturdays, so it is perhaps best to visit during the work week.
Mast Brothers Chocolate in Brooklyn, New York, gives a tour of its elite chocolate-making operations at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. While this costs $9.99 per person, an unusually high price in the world of factory tours, the rewards are obvious: "The finest chocolate we have ever tasted," according to The Chocolate Society of London (who should know).
In Frankfort, Kentucky, Rebecca Ruth Candies combines chocolate with the unusual twist of bourbon. You'll want to get there before Feb. 10, as tours don't run during the busy production period before Valentine's Day. This is another tour featured on our website.
Launched in late 2010, the tour of TCHO at Pier 17 in San Francisco promises entertainment as well as confectionery with engaging tour guides and an opulent tasting room. True to its roots in Silicon Valley, the company brings technological wizardry to the manufacture of chocolate.
Chocolate factories abound in most parts of the country, so there is probably at least one near your home. For many other chocolate tours, see our book Watch It Made in the U.S.A. Happy Valentine's Day!
Posted By Karen Axelrod Feb 4, 2011