Sweet spots across the country for fun that melts in your mouth
By Marcia Simmons
Some of the best chocolate in the world is made in the United States, but it’s inspired by international ingredients and traditions. Whether it ends up baked into cookies, whipped into a mousse or molded into a simple bar, chocolate originates from the cacao plant, found in faraway places such as Peru, Ecuador, Madagascar and Ghana. Yes, you can get extraordinary chocolate here, but you may not be able to find it at any old country mart. So on the next urban adventure in your Chevrolet Spark (which, come to think of it, started off abroad, too), take a delicious detour to these chocolate meccas for some tasty treats and a new perspective on an old favorite.
TCHO Factory Tour
San Francisco, CA
With its gleaming silver machines and workers in crisp white lab coats, TCHO’s factory near Fisherman’s Wharf looks like it produces space-age widgets until you notice that those conveyor belts are transporting chocolate bars, not rocket parts. Maybe that’s because founder Timothy Childs was a technologist for NASA before he delved into the science of chocolate. When you strap on your hair net for the tour, you’ll learn about the chocolate-making process from bean to bar and sample sweet treats—all free of charge. Who knows, you could even be a beta-tester for one of TCHO’s new flavors.
Theo Chocolate Factory Tour
Theo has dubbed its tour “Chocolate University,” because it explores every aspect of chocolate. Did you know that it takes two to four cacao pods the size of a coconut to produce enough beans to make one three-ounce chocolate bar? Or that their beans come from farmers’ groups and grower cooperatives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Peru? Of course along with an education, you’ll also get a sampling of Theo’s organic Fair Trade chocolate.
Chocolate Walking Tour
On this guided tour of chocolate shops, bakeries and “secret chocolate treasures,” you’ll sample chocolate in a variety of delightful forms: candies, cupcakes, gelato, hot cocoa and even chocolate tea. Teuscher Chocolates, Toni Patisserie, Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafters and the Chicago Cupcake truck are just a few of the local chocolate hotspots in the tour’s arsenal. Even though your taste buds will be getting more of a workout than you will, it’s totally reasonable to call this walking tour exercise, right?
Rebecca Ruth Candy Tour and Museum
A year before women had the right to vote, Ruth Hanly and Rebecca Gooch started a successful business in a bar that had been shuttered during Prohibition. These days, Ruth’s family is still involved in all the day-to-day operations. On the tour, you’ll see workers making candy by hand using the same marble-slab table, candy furnace and copper kettles that Ruth and Rebecca used when they first opened in 1919.
Hershey’s Chocolate World
If you like sweets better than roller coasters, Hershey’s has the theme park for you. Hop in an automated buggy to experience the cocoa bean’s journey from the rain forest to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Take a musical trolley ride through “America’s Sweetest Town” and stop at the movie theater for the Really Big 3D Show. Create your own candy bar with your photo on the wrapper. Join the workers at the factory to see (and taste) how Hershey’s Kisses are made. Just in case you haven’t had enough chocolate, there are also tastings, dessert workshops and a bake shop.
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San Francisco Bay Area writer Marcia Simmons’ work has appeared in Geek, Go, Shape, NOTCOT and Serious Eats, among other publications. She is also the co-author of the book DIY Cocktails.