The tour follows the creation of Olive and Sinclair chocolate "from bean to bar." It begins in the room where cacao beans arrive primarily from Ghana and the Dominican Republic (all are fair-trade and single-source, meaning from a single farm). The beans are first hand-sorted to remove any number of items that you would not want in your chocolate. (Tip: ask about the most unusual items ever found in the bags of beans.) Then you get to see the beans roasted, winnowed, stone-ground into a paste and then conched, tempered, flavored and poured by hand into molds. The chocolate is then frozen to set, and wrapped by hand for sale.
The “flavoring” portion of the process is minimal. If you’ve ever looked at the ingredient list for Olive and Sinclair chocolate, you know it’s very short. No lecithins, emulsifiers or artificial ingredients. Cacao beans, brown sugar, cacao butter plus whatever flavor (salt and pepper, coffee, cinnamon and so forth) is added to that variety of chocolate bar. The brown sugar is non-GMO and vegan (not processed through bone char). And with no soy or milk added, most flavors are vegan and allergen-free. It’s pure chocolate.
The tour makes it clear that O&S is proud of what they produce. It also becomes clear fairly soon that they’re a zero-waste facility. The parts of the bean that aren’t used for the chocolate bars are used for beer, bourbon, and even mulch, among other things. No part of the bean is discarded to the trash.
Of course, the thing you really need to know about the new location is that it’s the best place to buy Oliver and Sinclair chocolate and related gifts. The front of the factory is dedicated to retail space filled with salvaged fixtures and (most importantly) oftentimes, free samples. It’s the only place you can purchase one of their newest products, “chocuterie.” A play on “charcuterie,” the chocuterie is a chocolate log meant to be sliced and served like salami. The flavors change frequently, but I had a chance to sample the “coffee and doughnuts” chocuterie, as well as the “blackberry and brioche” flavor that features Arrington Vineyards blackberry dessert wine. Both were delicious. Also in the works are sea salt and vinegar caramels, duck fat caramels, salted bourbon caramel sauce, and perhaps even their own version of rillette.
The tours are free and open to all ages (though little ones should be kept close to parents). Even on days when the store is open but tours are not available, visitors can peek through the window from the store to see the chocolate-makers at work.
Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Factory Tours
1628 Fatherland St.
Saturdays, every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
(FREE) $5 per person
Retail hours: Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.