Oompa-Loompa’s, rivers of molten chocolate, and all the chocolate you can possibly eat!
Okaaaay, so there were no Oompa-Loompa’s at the Thorntons factory that I saw (they were probably keeping out of sight) but the river of chocolate was totally there…
Last week I was invited along with a few other bloggers to visit the Thorntons factory, near Alfreton in Derbyshire. They don’t usually offer tours to the public (apart from the occasional school group) so sadly not everyone can visit.
So let me tell you (and show you!) what I saw… (by the way, that’s me on the right…. don’t I look fetching in a boiler suit?!)
We were shown around by Alex and John, two super lovely and chocolate-loving guys from the online marketing team. They made working at Thorntons seem SO FUN that I now seriously want to join the team, except that you’re not allowed ANY peanut butter or hummus on site (due to the risk of a fragment of peanut or sesame finding it’s way into the factory!).
Along the way, we saw Harry Hopalong bunnies being set in the spinners (above), which help the chocolate to spread evenly in their moulds – this is how they make their gruffalos, snowmen, etc too! A factory worker stands by each one, mentally keeping track of how long each tray of chocolate bunnies has been spinning for – it’s a lot to keep track of!
Next we saw huge vats of milk, crates of sugar, pats of butter the size of small children, and a secret ingredient waiting to be turned into Thorntons special toffee. It’s mixed up, poured into tins, set with the help of fans, and then broken up into pieces.
Since the toffee pieces need to be a consistent size, they go through a machine to filter out teeny bits, or too big lumps of toffee (they get melted down to have another go!). So, there are lots of crates full of toffee dust lying around…. wouldn’t this be awesome to use as sand on a cake?
Thorntons was bought by Ferrero last year, aka, the people who make Ferrero Rocher and NUTELLA the world’s best substance. Fingers crossed for some nutella filled Thorntons chocolates in our future!
Let me tell you about how the individual chocolates are made… (here’s me and Sarah gazing at the truffle centres longingly)!
Can I just mention how proud I am that we went around the entire factory and didn’t help ourselves to a cheeky chocolate ONCE. It was very hard.
It’s no different to how you’d make chocolate truffles at home (in fact, very similar to what I learned on my chocolate truffle making course), just on a MUCH bigger scale! The filling is made and fed into a machine which portions it into small balls. Chocolate is sprayed at it from underneath to form a base, and the truffles go through a chilled section on the conveyor belt before being coated with milk chocolate, then chilled again and coated with white chocolate.
Then, the magic happens! Factory workers with special forks assemble from nowhere ready for the truffles to emerge from the conveyor belt and get their pretty decoration… it was really amazing how well everyone works together as a team and pops in and out of different areas to help with tasks when needed.
Then we got to taste some of the chocolates we’d just seen being made…. they were SO good!
After the factory tour, we had a go at piping messages on Easter eggs. I did have a slight advantage here, as I worked in a Thorntons store for a few months when I was a student (although I was terrible at both the piping AND gift wrapping, AND giving people the correct change). Basically, if you were my customer, I apologise!
Next we met master chocolatier Jane who develops new products, and played around with some of our own chocolate creations, featuring salted praline, blueberry caramel and lots of other fun things!
These are the chocolates I made – I got onto somewhat of a roll! I seriously think this may be my calling (though only when people hand me all of the required ingredients and I don’t have to do any of the hard work myself).
Thorntons have created an animated factory tour on their blog too, which is EXACTLY like the real factory, except way cuter. Have a look at it here and you could win your own tour of the factory!