I recently read an article about a chocolate company up in Asheville, North Carolina called French Broad Chocolates and immediately wanted to go up and tour their factory. So, I rounded up my younger sis and we headed up the mountain for an afternoon filled with chocolate and beer.
Part of the reason I wanted to visit this particular factory to learn more about their process, is because they’re a small operation, therefore meaning, all hands are on deck from start to finish. I literally mean, from start to finish. What I think we all forget when consuming artisan products is, in this case especially, we’re not just tasting a delectable bar of fine chocolate, we’re enjoying the hard work and dream brought to reality of local crafters. I had this same epiphany the last time I was in Napa. After visiting several different wineries and meeting the owners and vintners, one very basic thing came to mind and has changed the way I see most foods and drinks these days. They are farmers. They are farmers with incredible vision who put their blood, sweat and tears (I’m sure) into a finely crafted product for consumers like us. Honestly, how can you not want to support a product when you figure that out? It’s a whole new way of consciously eating and drinking. Somehow, things even taste better when you know where they came from and why and how.
Another great thing we learned about French Broad Chocolates was how sustainable they are. Not only are they helping the economy in Asheville by sourcing local ingredients to use in their chocolate, they’re also reusing or upcycling as much as possible inside their facility and out to make a minimal impact on the environment. But making the chocolates goes beyond the local economy in Asheville. They’re also helping out the local economy where they source their cacao beans. They work with the growers in Central America to create jobs that benefit many individuals and families, which in turn, ensures they are getting the best quality beans harvested straight from the farm and delivered straight to their doorstep. It’s a win win across the board.
Chocolate is very similar to wine or coffee. There are many blends and tons of different ways to create diverse notes of flavor. Depending on where the beans come from and how they are processed, flavors can have floral notes, fruit notes or berry notes and hit your mouth in various areas once they are translated to bar form. It takes an advanced palate to pick up on all the flavors in a piece of artisan chocolate, but when the makers gave us samples during the tour and pointed out what we might be tasting, it was possible to understand what we were experiencing from a 70% cacao bar to a 45% malted bar. How great would that job be? Chocolate sommelier. Yes, please!
French Broad Chocolates doesn’t just come to a halt in bar form, they also have a tasting lounge where they create all different kinds of confections. Truffles, cakes, brownies, chocolate drinks; it’s all there. We had every intention of rounding out the tour of the factory with a trip to the lounge, but when we made our way up to the location around the corner from the factory, there was a line reminiscent of Serendipity in New York. Out the door and halfway up the block. I’ll make sure to try again another time.
The factory tours are on Saturdays at 2 pm and reservations are strongly suggested as they have a limited number of spaces available. The tasting room at the factory is open from 12-6pm Monday through Saturday where you can sample the different kinds of chocolate available and buy them right there. If you’re not in the Asheville area and don’t have plans to visit any time soon, no worries, they ship these fabulous confections right to your door. They would make fantastic gifts to friends and family or would be perfect to have as an after dinner treat at your next party. French Broad Chocolate with a glass of red wine? I’m not sure it gets much better than that.