With Valentine’s Day inching ever closer, all things romance will be at the forefront and chocolate is sure to be on everyone’s mind. With a history stretching back to the Aztecs, this aphrodisiac is the gift of choice to inspire romance.
This makes Valentine’s Day the perfect time to explore Lanark County – a region boasting world-class and award-winning chocolate production and selection. Among the quaint storefronts, cute coffee shops and notable restaurants in Lanark County, visitors can go behind the scenes and tour chocolate makers and chocolatiers to learn more about this drool-worthy staple.
Seeing the amount of work put into every product certainly made us welcome every bite of artisan chocolate, and appreciate that the ingredients in these sweet squares change hands many times and require a passionate and unique approach.
Hummingbird Chocolate: Great Beans Make Great Chocolate
Owners of Hummingbird Chocolate, Erica Gilmour and her husband Drew, met in Afghanistan as foreign aid workers. Helping small farmers establish their businesses, they didn’t want to sacrifice their involvement in international aid when moving back to Canada.
Since there’s an incredible availability of beans in some of these developing countries, and they had already made many necessary connections, it was a no brainer – they kickstarted their business making chocolate in their basement in tiny little batches.
As self-professed chocolate addicts, a golden rule at Hummingbird Chocolate is that one needs great beans to make great chocolate. Visitors can see every step of this perfected process, from winnowing the beans (separating the nibs from the husk through a contraption involving piping, a mallet and a vacuum cleaner), to conching the beans (a process where shear and heat are applied to the refined mixture in two phases – dry and wet), to tempering the beans (in a machine that puts the sheen on and takes the edge out by playing with temperatures).
Fun fact: The very first bean that Hummingbird Chocolate used was the Hispaniola bean which is from the Dominican Republic. A few years later, the Hispaniola bean won them the Academy of Chocolate’s ‘Golden Bean’ award one of the most prestigious awards for bean to bar chocolate making. And they’re still using the Hispaniola bean today.
Insider Tip: Small 45-minute group tours are offered every Saturday at 10:30am. Advance tickets ($5) are required. For more information visit their website.
Perth Chocolate Works: Belgian Chocolatey Delight
Originally located in Manitoulin, Ontario, Perth Chocolate Works expanded to a second location in Perth in the summer of 2017. With extensive experience and training at The Chocolate Academy in Montreal and The French Pastry School in Chicago, Louise and her daughters Heather and Brenda employ the most up-to-date methods and processes to create their delicious chocolate delicacies.
The handmade products are carefully created in small batches using the highest quality Belgian Callebaut chocolate, which demands precise execution of tempering, filling and mold preparation, enrobing, cooling and storage. Choose from a variety of signature chocolates, like the creamy crunch which is a Lotus biscuit covered in a casing of milk chocolate, or quirky treats like chocolate dipped Rice Krispie squares or Oreos.
Fun fact: The floors in Perth Chocolate Works are made to look like you’re walking over a smooth chocolatey treat.
Insider Tip: Don’t forget to pick up their very own special blend of hot chocolate mix that is served by the cup – and try it iced in the summer!
Tweed Visitor Centre: Say Hi. to Chocolate
If you’re looking for a little chocolate along with your cannabis education, Tweed Visitor Centre is the place to go. Here you can tour the Hi Line, a catwalk that takes you above it all where you can watch chocolate being made below. After your tour, you can sit around and lounge in the study, put your feet up, sip on a coffee and sample some local delights – minus the cannabis. Every visitor can try a small square of Hummingbird Chocolate.
Fun fact: For nearly half a century, Smiths Falls was known as the chocolate capital of Ontario and was home to the Hershey Company’s first plant outside the United States.
Insider Tip: The Tweed Visitor Centre is one of the destinations on the Sip & Savour Trail – make sure you pick up a brochure at the visitor centre to plan your next visit.
Village Treats: Top Quality Chocolates
Village Treats is currently owned and operated by Galen Neilson and Nick Levac: a married couple with two active daughters. When the previous owners, the West family, was set to retire, Galen’s entrepreneurial spirit sparked. At the young age of 19 and 20, Galen and Nick purchased Village Treats.
From the production line to the front counter, it’s been 19 years and the couple still love bringing chocolate ideas to life. Whether it’s creating a custom chocolate mold for a corporate event, supplying Easter Cream Eggs for local fundraisers or helping customers handpick chocolates at the front counter, they feel lucky that they get to bring a smile to someone’s face every day.
Fun Fact: Village Treats has been located in Lanark Village since 1979 – more than 40 years of chocolate making in this small town.
Insider Tip: If you’re looking to raise money for an initiative, Village Treats will help you to set up some chocolate sales.