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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Haigh's Chocolate Factory Tour

I'm back from a really enjoyable few days in Adelaide. It was extremely cold and wet there, moreso than Melbourne!, but we enjoyed lots of time in front of open fires and a wonderful evening exploring the very grand Mt Lofty House in the Adelaide Hills, where our friend is acting as caretaker.
Our tour of the chocolate factory was on Monday, which I didn't realise was the first day of the SA school holidays; so it was quite busy! Haigh's is a very small family business, who encourage traditional skills and maintain as much human involvement in the chocolate making process as possible. They still hand dip and hand decorate all chocolates, which is a lost skill in most chocolate factories.
The smell walking in was very yummy, but soon became overwhelming. I'm not sure how I could cope if working there; the very sweet smell combined with the noise of the machines made for a fairly high stress environment for somebody like me, who loves a quiet workplace. Haigh's had put on extra tours, and the woman taking them seemed a bit harrassed. I have to say I was a little underwhelemed by the tour; we didn't get a chance to see the chocolate from its raw cocoa bean form being made into the chocolate we know. Rather, the tour shows the final stages of decorating and packing, which is also very interesting, and now I have a deeper appreciation for the higher cost of the chocolates, but I really did want to see how chocolate was made! No cameras allowed on the factory floor, so I'm afraid I don't have any photos to show you, other than the shop.
What did annoy me most of all was that the woman taking the tour shouted loudly the whole time and didn't leave any opportunity to ask questions. But most of all, I resented the fact that she addressed the whole tour to the 4 children in the group, and pretty much ignored the 15 adults. I had lots of things I wanted to ask, but trying to get in was impossible. At one stage I was burning up with curiosity watching some workers unloading small sacks with a very obvious label of Callebaut on them. Callebaut? The French chocolate makers? Why were Haighs, who proudly adverstise that they are the only chocolate factory to make their own chocolate from the raw bean, receiving deliveries from a French chocolate factory? The sacks were too small to be beans. What could they be? I shouted out my question while our tour leader was taking a breath, and she most obviously didn't answer it! Rather, she started explaining the packing process going on at the next table. Hmmmmm. Was she ignoring me, or did she misunderstand? Had I uncovered a conspiracy at the Haigh's factory? Was I going to be snatched by men in dark suits and taken away for questioning?
I gave her the benefit of the doubt and turned my attention to the amazing hand-dipping process going on in front of us. There are some serious artisinal skills maintained at Haighs, and all the staff look really happy to be working there. They're allowed to eat as much chocolate as they want, but not while they're working. I think I'd find it very difficult not to pop one in my mouth as it passed from table to fork to table!
I managed to sideline our guide at the end of the tour to ask the questions. She was most obviously distracted and keen to finish, and definitely not interested in being asked a question. Her answer of "I have no idea" and a shrug to the Callebaut sacks didn't encourage me to pursue the issue any further. If anyone out there knows the answer, I'd love to know, but I was certainly not getting it from her! I also really wanted to ask about Haigh's policy on Fair Trade sourcing, as raised by Owen in a comment recently. Australia only has Green & Black Fair Trade chocolate, and I was really interested to find out what Haigh's view was about it. But there was no chance I could ask that. To be honest, I'm not certain our guide would have known what it meant. She was skilled at entertaining children, but I don't know how she would cope with questions from adults.
Later we received our free handful of chocolates, and were let loose in the store. Essentially it's just a standard retail store, with prices the same as all the others, but they do have a seconds and discontinued section where I bought a bag of assorted dark chocolate bars - marshmallow, cappuccino, nougat etc. (very nice!) and a bag of various truffles to try (also very good). I have now realised I much prefer their truffles to their filled chocolates, which are too sweet and gooey. I've eaten everything I bought already, which is very greedy of me. But once you get on a roll.....
If you're in Adelaide it's certainly worth going along for a look. The tours are free, so it is a bit precious of me to write about how I wasn't very impressed by it, but going during school term-time might be a very different experience.

Haigh's Chocolate Visitors Centre
154 Greenhill Road
Parkside SA 5000
Tour Bookings:(08) 8372 7077
Tel: (08) 8372 7070


  • Drool first, read post later...oooh, my. Lookit dat.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 7/14/2005 02:51:00 pm  

  • Oh YUM!

    I wonder what the callebut was all about? it is disspaointing that they didnt answer your questions satiffactorily

    By Blogger eat stuff, at 7/14/2005 03:16:00 pm  

  • My favourite chocolate shop was the one in the old George's at the back of the Collins Street store near the Georg Jensen mezzanine - I believe it was a Haigh's. The chocolates were wonderful, French-derived or not. And the chocolate lady who worked there was lovely.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/15/2005 03:20:00 pm  

  • Hello Niki, I've received a reply to my query asking Haigh's about FairTrade sourcing of cocoa. There's a very heavy signature warning me about the confidentiality of the content so suffice it to say that a lady called Sandra Gibson thanks me for my letter about slave labour in African plantations and informs me that because Haigh have complete control over their bean sourcing they are in a position to reassure me that cocoa plantation slavery isn't a problem in the country that supplies their African beans. Well, I can probably be sued round the world for disclosing all that information but anyway - standard format reply to a letter on a completely different subject. I'll try again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/28/2005 04:34:00 pm  

  • Spotted how I became Anonymous then - switched from the Blogger identity default which offers my name in the Username box to Other and pressed Enter before my early morning brain registered the fact that the Username box had been cleared and I needed to enter a name. Hopefully this comment has a name on.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/28/2005 04:37:00 pm  

  • Better revise that place where I lost the genitive apostrophe s off Haigh's or they might sue me for misrespresentation in addition to breach of confidentiality - and they might have a go at you as well for conspiracy!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/28/2005 04:41:00 pm  

  • It's so frustrating to receive a form letter like that, especially when it pointedly doesn't address the question you raise. I had a similar issue with Amazon.com recently; they went to enormous effort to *not* answer my question and create enough trouble to pursue the problem in order to deter further action. But I was not to be deterred, and I persevered to the end.
    I'm very intrigued about the Haigh's's' issue, and hope that with a degree of tenacity, we can get to real answers. It does seem at the moment, however, that their correspondence department has a similar attitude to the people who lead their tours - don't know, don't care.

    By Blogger Niki, at 7/28/2005 10:19:00 pm  

  • With courage reinforced by the picture of lemon ricotta slices I shall persist!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/29/2005 01:27:00 am  

  • Great post, thank you! Also, there is another wonderful article about French chocolate. It has some history and even recommends the best wine/chocolate combinations, which I found to be absolutely delicious. It's for real gourmets!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/22/2007 12:23:00 pm  

  • Thanks for your post ... I am heading to Adelaide for the first time and was researching things to do while there.

    ... and their dark chocolate is good.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/27/2007 08:08:00 am  

  • when i went in and asked whether their dark chocolate is vegan one of the girls got confused and wanted to get me an info sheet on their fair trade status - apparently they are fair trade, however i did happily take her word for it rather than researching properly. yum.

    By Blogger yemenelopeee, at 5/26/2008 06:01:00 pm  

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