From Iceland — Charley And The Chocolate Factory

Charley And The Chocolate Factory

Published November 28, 2017

Charley And The Chocolate Factory
Charley Ward
Photo by
Art Bicnick

There are no oompa loompas, golden goose eggs or everlasting gobstoppers in the Omnom Chocolate factory, but when the chocolate tastes this good, it really hardly matters. We’ve come along for one of their popular guided tours, which run every weekday at 2PM from their boutique factory in Grandi. When we arrive, the gift shop is decked out in a festive outfit with twinkling lights, a Christmas tree, and a cardboard figure of an illustrated penguin trussed up in a hat and scarf. A colourful wall of chocolate bars and tins of malted balls—”Don’t call them Maltesers!” says tour guide Kyle Clunies-Ross—stretches from floor to ceiling, next to a wall of certificates the small team of 19 have earned for their culinary efforts.

Even if you’ve not tasted any of Omnom’s offerings for yourself, you may still recognise their logo: a distinctive illustration of a wolf’s head in angular, geometric lines. Their trademark brightly coloured wrappers, each adorned with a different animal, are available in most of the shops you’ll find on Laugavegur and for good reason too—the chocolate, crafted from bean to bar right here in their factory in Reykjavík, is delicious.

“We make 2,500 bars of chocolate here each day,” says Kyle, who declares his job title as “chocolate eater,” with a hearty laugh. “Each is wrapped individually by hand.”

The art of chocolate

We start with a lesson in chocolate making. While roasting raw cacao beans in a sweet little roaster, Kyle explains that they use beans from three different countries—Nicaragua, Madagascar and Tanzania—as the differing qualities in the soil gives the beans, and therefore the bars, their own unique, distinctive taste. He breaks us off a piece of each: the Madagascan dark chocolate is fruity and luxurious with a slightly acidic ring, while the earthy Nicaraguan has a strong aftertaste that lingers. The Tanzanian bar is more subtle and sweet; I think it tastes like raisins.

“We make 2500 bars of chocolate here each day. Each is wrapped individually by hand.”

We also get a chance to shell and try a raw cacao bean, and taste a spoonful of a raw chocolate mixture, created by mashing the beans in a pestle and mortar with a dollop of sugar added. Kyle tells us many interesting facts throughout the lesson—for chocolate to reach the silky smooth texture we know and love, the beans and sugar must be ground together non-stop for 72 hours, and fortunately for us all, chocolate can never go mouldy.

Samples for days

Heading onto the factory floor, we get to see production in action. A stream of melted chocolate pours out of a tap and is expertly spread into a mould by hand and whisked away. I’m intrigued by a large spherical machine, which reminds me of one of those futuristic looking egg-shaped chairs, standing ready to blast chocolate malt balls with their raspberry filling. Disappointingly, we don’t get the chance to see it in use, but more chocolate samples coming my way alleviates this almost immediately.

I don’t even like coconut, but a silky smooth milk chocolate bar topped with coconut shavings tastes amazing. From the test kitchen, a festive gingerbread offering comes closely in second place. And once we’re back through into the shop, the samples keep coming: in fact, we get a chance to try all 15 of the chocolate bars currently on offer. Initially, this sounded great, but I left feeling more like poor old swollen Violet Beauregarde than Charley. I was half expecting to have to be rolled back home.

It didn’t stop me from trying them all, of course.

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