A tour for chocolate lovers in Brooklyn isn't just about tasting the final product. It also gives a peek at factories, neighbourhoods and even business plans.
The chocolate tour offered by A Slice of Brooklyn takes visitors to four chocolate-makers around Brooklyn. "I love chocolate," said Christine Dietz of San Diego, who was treated to the tour by friends throwing her a bachelorette party in New York. "But it's really cool that we also get a bit of a tour of the city."
But A Slice of Brooklyn's chocolate tour is also part of a bigger trend. Confectioners and tour companies around the country are offering chocolate tours catering not just to the public's sweet tooth, but also to consumer interest in learning where the products they eat and drink come from.
"Customers care about what they put in their mouths – especially millennials and Gen Xers," said Pam Williams, founder of the online academy Ecole Chocolat School of Professional Chocolate Arts. "They want to know where their food comes from and how it is processed."
And while everybody knows that wine comes from grapes, "very, very few actually understand that chocolate comes from the seeds of a tree," said Williams, who is also co-founder of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association. Inviting customers "into the factory to see the beans and the machinery that turn those beans into chocolate is a very good way to educate consumers on fine chocolate."
From Hershey's to hipsters
The granddaddy of U.S. chocolate tours is Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, Pa. It's hosted more than 100 million guests since opening in 1973. The free tour takes guests on rides following chocolate from bean to bar, with singing cows along the way and treats at the end.
But chocolate tours are offered in many other destinations around the United States, from factories to visits with artisanal chocolatiers. Just be sure to plan ahead, as some tours are offered only on certain days and times and some require reservations. Some are free, but others are pricey. The Brooklyn tour is $50 (U.S.).
Mars Chocolate (makers of M&Ms, Snickers and Dove) offers tours and tastings of its Ethel M premium chocolate brand at the Ethel M factory in Henderson, Nev., near the Las Vegas strip.
Theo Chocolate welcomes more than 50,000 visitors a year to its Seattle factory . The tour shows how the brand sources organic fair-trade beans, right through to the bar-making process.
In Oregon, Portland Walking Tours' Chocolate Decadence tour visits multiple chocolatiers for tastings in every form: whipped, melted, liquid, beans, bars and more.
Lake Champlain Chocolates offers free factory tours and tastings in Burlington, Vt.
In Somerville, Mass., Taza Chocolate offers an Intro to Stone Ground Chocolate factory tour, and for children under the age of 10, a Chocolate Story Time on weekend mornings.
In Connecticut, you can take a train from Thomaston to experience Fascia's Chocolate factory tours in Waterbury, with wine and chocolate pairings along the way.
At Dandelion in San Francisco, factory tours are so popular they book up more than a month in advance.
Dallas By Chocolate offers several different tours, including Chocolate a la Mode with four stops.
In Santa Fe, N.M., the Cacao Santa Fe Chocolate Factory tour offers a look at everything from roasting, winnowing, grinding and tempering of chocolate to the finished product.
In the hipster 'hood of East Nashville, Tenn., Olive & Sinclair offers a bean-to-bar factory tour in a historic building.
Never mind beignets and pralines: The New Orleans Chocolate Crawl samples everything from fudge to gelato.
In North Carolina, Videri Chocolate Factory offers staff-guided tours of its facility in Raleigh's newly revitalized downtown Warehouse District.
Even in New York, A Slice of Brooklyn only skims the cream off the city's chocolate offerings. Consider tours at Mast Brothers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the soon-to-open Harlem Chocolate Factory; and the 5,000-square-foot Jacques Torres Chocolate Museum in Manhattan.
Slice of Brooklyn tour
First stop on A Slice of Brooklyn's chocolate tours is Jacques Torres's shop in DUMBO, an industrial district turned chic enclave between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
Next, at The Chocolate Room in the Cobble Hill neighbourhood, owners Jon Payson and Naomi Josepher explain that they opened the business because they loved going out for dessert but had limited options for sit-down, restaurant-style dessert-only experiences.
In Red Hook, a working-class waterfront area of modest homes and warehouses, the tour strolls to a pier with a view of the Statue of Liberty before hitting Raaka Chocolate to see how the company's artisanal bars are made, from processing cacao pods to wrapping bars. Flavours include smoked chai and pink sea salt.
Last stop: Li-Lac Chocolates in Industry City, a revived business complex in the Sunset Park neighbourhood. Li-Lac has been selling chocolates since 1923 and is known for creamy, old-school recipes, but only recently relocated to the Brooklyn site.
And for those who love the idea of touring Brooklyn, A Slice of Brooklyn also offers pizza tours and Christmas lights tours.