The children spy a playground as we travel though some small New Brunswick towns heading south… Sorry kids we are not stopping today, because we have an appointment to keep.
We want to stop somewhere famous in St. Stephens and we need to get there before the place closes for the day.. we will be cutting things a little fine as it is, so no unnecessary stopping until we get there, understand?
What are we aiming to see?
The famous Ganong Chocolate factory of course !
Phew, we arrive about an hour before closing time and the kids eyes light up when they see why we are stopping, their eyes light up even more (I hardly thought it possible but truly it IS) when they hear that in this chocolate factory and on this chocolate tour it’s free-all-you-can-eat chocolate tasting as you go!
The old factory at Ganong became too small for their present operational needs so they moved to a purpose built factory just outside town and so the original factory today houses a museum and shop… the museum gives the story of chocolate making from the cocoa bean until the finished product.
During the tour we learn that chocolate’s popularity increased in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the early 1800′s. Dutch and British experiments led to the creation of the solid chocolate we know today and by mid-century, chocolate manufacturing had taken hold in Europe and was beginning to spread in North America.
The Brothers Ganong made their start in 1873 and interestingly, many of the future famous players in the chocolate business, including Droste, Nestle, Lowney, Hershey and Moirs appeared about the same time.
Ganong’s famous hand dippers were women living in St. Stephen and surrounding areas, and the display tells us that ” a hand-dipper usually worked from seven in the morning until six at night, Monday to Saturday, spending much of that time up to her elbows in chocolate.
Working hours increased after Labour Day, when Christmas production began, when workers returned to the factory for another three hours in the evening. The mark of an experienced hand-dipper was her ability to put a mark or swirl of chocolate on the top of each chocolate. There was a distinctive swirl for each chocolate, and at one time Ganong made 150 different types of chocolate. ” (Wow, what long hours!)
We are having an excellent time and the kids are beside themselves with that most dreadful of choices ” What kind of chocolate will I try from the sample tray next?”
Since Dutch handmade chocolates are made from the best-on-the-planet-chocolate produced by our neighbour Belgium, it can be hard to find chocolate in other countries that compares in any way favourably to what we have at home. I was disappointed with the Anne of Green Gables chocolate as it was clearly inferior , but WOW the Ganong chocolate is VERY GOOD indeed, and is up there with Europe’s finest.
This is a very welcome surprise because we have tasted the “Hershey” brand of chocolate whilst in America and to be honest I was very worried indeed that this place was going to be a Canadian equivalent of cheap mass produced lower quality chocolate. I needn’t have worried, Ganong is leagues above Hershey!
We looove learning all about chocolate here ! Let’s take a look around…