A couple of weeks ago, something happened to me that made me realise that dreams DO in fact come true....I was invited to spend the entire day in a chocolate factory!
When the invitation from Thorntons arrived in the form of a box of delicious chocolates, I knew this was going to be a pretty epic experience...and I was right!
Now before I start, I have to disclose something - as much as I love chocolates, I had never really considered myself to be a huge Thorntons advocate - I mean don't get me wrong, I liked their chocolate! It's pretty delicious actually and their personalised Easter Eggs are something I buy every year for my nieces and nephew...but in my mind they were just another chocolate maker, no different than any other.
But I can honestly say that since my tour of the Thorntons factory, I see them in an entirely new light.
The Thorntons factory is based in a little village in Derbyshire, and upon arriving for the day we were greeted with coffee, pastries and...you guessed it!...chocolates to feast on while we waited for everybody to arrive. As always I was one of the latest ones to get there so I didn't have long to wait.
We were then taken to basically "scrub up" for our tour and kitted out with safety shoes, over coats, and hair nets and monitored while we scrubbed our hands...Thorntons really do take hygiene very seriously which was reassuring to see.
Our tour of the factory lasted for around an hour as there was SO much to see....we saw the chocolate snowmen and santas being made from start to finish (the cooling machines they use are pretty cool!), we saw the boxes being made up ready for the chocolates, we saw the advent calendars and personalised chocolates being piped by hand, we saw the toffee being poured (this smelled amazing and was SO satisfying to watch....I've never been that into toffee but I have had a hankering for it ever since seeing this!), and we saw the fillings for the chocolate being made up in gigantic mixers and rolled out...it was quite something!
But my favourite part of the tour was seeing the production of some lemon flavoured chocolates from start to finish - we saw the filling being poured into the mixing machine by hand, we saw the chocolates formed and making their way along the conveyer belt...we saw them decorated and covered with sugar....we saw the machine that coats the bottom of the white chocolate in a darker chocolate, we saw them being cooled, and we saw them all being checked by hand before being deposited into their boxes and sent on their way. It was honestly so interesting and I had no idea that so much work went into creating a single chocolate.
We were VERY fortunate too as once our tour was over, we were able to taste some chocolates fresh of the line and honestly...I have never tasted anything better. It was wonderful to be able to taste the lemon chocolates that we'd just watched being made...I would actually considering changing careers and working there if it meant that I got to taste those fresh chocolates again!
What most surprised me about the tour was just how much is done by hand at the factory - everything is hand checked by real actual humans (and there were hundreds of them at the factory, I think I had expected most things to be done by machines!) and some of the items are made almost entirely by hand such as the delicious looking nougat rings which are hand shaped and even hand painted with chocolate.
I was also interested to see how much personalisation you can choose when you order gifts directly from Thorntons online, such as boxes with photos, personalised wedding favours, and even personalised advent calendars - when you order online the piping is done with white chocolate too instead of the icing that's used in store! I know which advent calendars I'll be ordering this year!
After our tour, we were treated to a delicious lunch (honestly it was wonderful, thank you Thorntons for such generous hospitality) and then had a go at hand piping some messages onto chocolate slabs.
Then it was time to head to the creation kitchen were one of Thorntons chocolatiers was waiting for us to guide us through making some of our own delicious treats.
We filled and decorated our own chocolates by hand, rolled some truffles and even created a little chocolate bowl for them to go in (which was really fun to do and something I will definitely do again with the kids!)
I had so much fun coming up with my own chocolate creations and it was lovely to spend some time doing something like this with the other bloggers in attendance that day.
We got to take our yummy treats home, as well as the most gorgeous (and full!) chocolate gift box I've ever seen.
I sat there last night eating some of the chocolates that Thorntons gave to us and I can honestly say that I just can't look at them in the same way anymore, I now know just how much care and attention goes into each and every chocolate that Thorntons produce and it has given me a new respect for their craft.
Thank you Thorntons for the opportunity to attend such an interesting and fun event.
And thank you also to the other bloggers there that day who were so lovely, it was fun to see you all!
L - R: 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, Charlotte from Write Like No-ones Watching, Debs from Super Busy Mum, Amy from Everything Mummy and Jade from Raising The Rings along with our two lovely tour guides!
To find out more about Thorntons chocolates (or to purchase any of those personalised advent calendars like I'm about to do!) just visit www.thorntons.co.uk
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