Desperate to prevent a holiday meltdown with the children? Chocoholics and future pastry chefs alike will love the ChoCo'A factory tour.
Children and the chocolate factory
Desperate to prevent a holiday meltdown with the children? Chocoholics and future pastry chefs alike will find the ChoCo'a factory tour in Dubai entertaining and delicious. Three siblings share the flavour-filled secrets of their own chocolate taste test
Do you like chocolate? I certainly do. Chocolate is produced in a chocolate factory. I was lucky enough to visit one. The one I went to, ChoCo'a, produces wonderful variations and flavours from the basic bar of chocolate.
On arrival at the factory, we were introduced to the pastry chef, Frederic Legras, who told us that ChoCo'a buys its plain chocolate from the quality Belgian brand Callebaut in five-kilogram blocks.
In the factory they add their own unique flavours, shapes, design and wrapping to the chocolate, or include it in their cakes and muffins.
First, we were told how chocolate is made: cocoa butter and cocoa powder are combined, as well as plenty of milk and sugar. White chocolate is slightly different: it doesn't contain cocoa powder; it is the cocoa butter that gives it its chocolatey texture.
Afterwards, we were given a visual explanation of how the chocolate is melted and reformed, and then moulded into shapes, using machines that heat and cool it to the right temperature, as well as being whipped and stirred to keep it light and frothy.
In the packaging room, we were shown how the wonderful shapes of chocolate are packed and sent around the country. They have a new machine that wraps the small bars in shiny paper and seals them with a ChoCo'a sticker. The more complicated shapes are wrapped by hand.
After that, we were invited into the storage room to sample various types of chocolate. The thing that makes ChoCo'a so unique is its diverse variations and flavours of chocolate - they have 48 different types. Some of the ones we sampled were classic vanilla, chocolate with sesame (seeds and spices inside the chocolate) and English toffee - smooth, soft toffee coated in milk chocolate. The chef's favourite - chocolate molasses - was a sweet, brown sugar-tasting bar with an aromatic scent.
Finally, we visited the pastry room where cakes and muffins are produced. The cake batter is spread over silicon mats, baked 16 at a time, then layered with creamy fillings to produce sponge cakes. Cakes are made to order - they prepare about 200 cakes a week. Chef made some warm cupcakes specially for us - sponge cake on the outside and warm melted chocolate inside. It was the best ever.
It was a wonderful experience as I am a budding chef and a chocoholic.
On Saturday we went to the ChoCo'a factory where we met the chef called Frederic, who was going to show us around and was going to tell us stuff about the place and show us four different rooms.
First we went to the storeroom and Frederic showed us a huge carton of cocoa butter and he let us taste a tiny piece. He told us some facts about it and showed us the basic chocolate that they get from Europe and use to make the ChoCo'a chocolate.
After that we went to a room where they package the chocolate and put them in boxes ready to go to hotels and the shops. And we saw these big boxes of chocolates which were neatly wrapped by a machine. There were ladies working there whose job was to wrap small chocolates and box them.
Next we went to a room where they make the chocolate and pour it into moulds and fill with caramel etc. We saw a machine which "enrobes" a chocolate bar - it gets coated with melted chocolate and in 12 minutes goes through a really long tunnel machine. When it comes out the chocolate is cool and set and ready to eat.
Then we went into the testing room to taste chocolates and we tried so many chocolates - classic vanilla, chocolate with figs and sesame seeds, chocolate with molasses and last of all the English toffee chocolate, which was my favourite.
Finally we went into the baking room where they make cakes, cupcakes and cookies and decorate them. We watched the staff decorating cakes - one cake looked like a white, fluffy cat and another one was like ballerinas doing gymnastics and one was Daisy Duck and one was Minnie Mouse.
Lastly, we made these delicious cupcakes - Chef let me have a go, and I carefully poured the batter into the muffin case! They cooked in 10 minutes and we ate the cupcakes - which were sponge cake on the outside and oozed with warm dark chocolate when cut open. They were delicious and hot from the oven.
My mum Vea, my brother Nat, my sister Alayna and I went to the ChoCo'a factory. When we arrived, we met Frederic, our guide.
First of all, we had to wash our hands and wear a hair net. Then we visited the storeroom. The ChoCo'a factory doesn't make its own chocolate - they buy the chocolate from a company called Callebaut - the finest Belgian chocolate. They add cocoa butter to it along with other ingredients to make the chocolate that we are familiar with. I found out that the cocoa butter is tasteless and it can either be hard or liquid, not spreadable like real butter.
Next, we went to a room where there were many machines. Frederic told us about all the machines and their jobs. There were also all these different shapes and sizes of chocolate kept to cool on racks, and I was surprised to see some edible chocolate shoes.
We then went to the tasting room where we were given different flavoured chocolates to taste from boxes that were stuffed full to the brim. We tasted the classic vanilla, sesame nougat, milk chocolate and English toffee, which were all beautifully machine wrapped.
After we had eaten all those delicious chocolates, we went to the pastry department where staff were decorating cakes made to order - a white, furry cat, a cake with ballerinas on it, a huge figure-3 cake and little decorated cupcakes.
Chef then took us to the preparation room where he taught us to make warm cupcakes. The ingredients were: dark chocolate shavings, flour, melted butter, sugar and eggs all blended together. He poured the batter into muffin cases, and baked them in the oven for about 10 minutes, gas mark 180 degrees. Chef then cut through the middle of each cupcake and warm dark chocolate ran out - such a treat. I loved it and will try to bake some at home.
Chef Frederic was welcoming and entertaining, and I had a wonderful, memorable time at ChoCo'a.
For a personalised tour of the ChoCo'a chocolate factory, go to www.chocoa.ae/en/factory/special-visits tour.