A little while ago I had a rather wonderful email drop into my inbox asking if I’d like to attend a chocolate factory tour in the midlands. Immediately, I thought it was Cadbury’s given that was the most obvious, but it actually turned out to be Thorntons, whose head factory is based in Derbyshire.
My formal invitation was sent by way of chocolates in the post, and of course I couldn’t say no. I’m a huge chocolate lover and was so excited to see what goes into the making of their chocolates, the people behind the work and of course the factory itself.
Previously, Thorntons to me had always been a high street store chugging out mass production products with no thought, care or attention. They’re obviously very well known and are a huge company so I didn’t expect much more than that, but I honestly don’t think I could’ve been proven more wrong.
We arrived and were taken to a room which would be our base for the day and the first thing we were greeted with was a huge box full of chocolate and toffee. I could think of worse ways to start the day couldn’t you? Thorntons had put on a beautiful breakfast spread of pastries, with plenty of tea and coffee and then they had to open the chocolate right? Obviously!
We began our factory tour and had to wear some rather flattering lab coats, hair nets and white boots – I almost looked like an Oompa Loompa except I didn’t have an orange hair net; that would’ve set it off quite nicely. As soon as we were ready and walking down into the depths of the factory the smell of melting chocolate was very apparent and it smelled so good. It was lovely to walk around each section where the smells changed frequently, the machinery and equipment got bigger and to see the chocolates coming fresh off the line – which taste amazing by the way.
By far one of the most impressive things I saw was the fudge being hand poured into trays by a very specialist operative. It was absolutely mesmerising to watch and the smell was beyond delicious. Had some of us been working that line that day we’d have been more than tempted to stick our fingers into the fudge, even though it was literally boiling and bubbling.
The biggest surprise of the day was just how much was done by hand. From the weighing out of ingredients right through to the chocolates being individually assessed for quality. Anything that wasn’t perfect was put into a bag to be melted down again and reused, it was really incredible just how efficiently the whole factory operated. Yes there are machines that do the cooling and the shaking and the drizzling, but to see staff getting hands on was really lovely to see and the best bit was I don’t think I met a single operative who wasn’t smiling. Everyone was happy to say hello, show off their piece of kit and explain what was going on.
After we’d finished the tour we were lucky enough to head over to the tasting station where there were around 24 different chocolates to taste and unbelievably none of us scoffed that much! I think because it was getting close to dinner time, nobody wanted to fill up on chocolate and we were very good. I have to say that the chocolates fresh of the line are just on another planet compared to those that have been in the packaging – even though they’re super nice anyway!
Everybody in the factory is highly trained and the factory runs 24/7, usually over three shifts in a day. Those who personalise chocolates are trained to use a certain font and we got to find out for ourselves just how difficult it can be. After dinner we were able to try and write in icing on a chocolate plaque, and I think my attempt is pretty good to be honest, although not quite Thorntons standard.
After lunch we were headed down to our very own kitchen where we’d be making our very own chocolates. There were lots of flavours such orange caramel, strawberry sauce, chocolate ganache which we then topped with some milk chocolate and further decorations. I don’t think we’ll be seeing my creations on the shelf any time soon but they did taste pretty nice! We also made our own chocolate basket and some florentine style chocolates – which my boys loved as I only managed to get half of one by the next morning as we were able to take our creations home – aren’t we lucky?
Overall, my views of Thorntons have been changed from that of a company all about mass production to that of a company who cares about what leaves its factory. I had so much fun learning about everything behind the scenes, getting to have a go myself as well as meeting up with some other really lovely bloggers; Alex from Bump To Baby, Nell from The Pigeon Pair & Me, Emma from Life According to Mrs Shilts, Jo from Slummy Single Mummy, Emily from A Mummy Too, Charl Taylor from Write Like No One’s Watching, Hayley from Sparkles & Stretchmarks, Debs from Super Busy Mum and Amy from Everything Mummy.
*I was invited to Derbyshire to tour the Thorntons factory but all views and opinions are my own.