Sunday, March 4, 2018

The #1 Reason to Visit Almonte, Ontario

My family visited the Hummingbird Chocolate Factory in Almonte, Ontario a few weeks ago. We were on our way to Ottawa for a few days, and I'd been wanting to get to Hummingbird since they started making chocolate several years back. Their Dominican Republic origin chocolate bar - the 'Hispaniola' bar - made with the coveted 'La Red' cocoa bean, was (and still is) a favourite of mine back when I wrote about it in 2012, and since then, it has won several awards, including the Golden Bean Award from the Academy of Chocolate.



The little company began with chocolate-making couple Erica and Drew and has grown into a full, yet still quaint-sized factory in Almonte with over 10 people working there. The cute little store-front rests in the newest shopping and entertainment district of Almonte, tucked in close to a fabulous craft brewery and an amazing coffee roaster & its eat-in cafĂ©. So for my family, we were able to enjoy a Saturday morning full of food and drink, starting with Hummingbird's factory tour and chocolate-tasting in the store front, then a quick pick-up of Crooked Mile craft beer, and a rather enjoyable lunch at Equator Coffee Roasters.

Hummingbird's quaint storefront offers not only their chocolate bars,
but gift packages, confections and seasonal treats.


During the tour, we learned that Erica and Drew have maintained the 'craft' part of chocolate making, by using a hands-on and hand-made approach. There are no wrapping machines, moulding machines or even new-age stainless steel winnowers on site. Nope, the original winnower which removes the husks from cocoa beans, is still standing in the factory and used regularly. Drew built it in the company's humble beginnings, with a few shop vacs, wood and some Plexiglas. I have a smaller version of this for my little workshop, so it was nice to see a chocolate maker who has built up a successful Canadian brand still using a homemade classic. And along with that, a team of people were buzzing around the space, doing the bar moulding, wrapping, and all the other work that comes with craft chocolate making.


This little tour was not about tasting chocolate (you can do that in the storefront), it was more about learning where the chocolate comes from, how it is made and the process Hummingbird goes through to make their craft chocolate. It only cost $5 per person and was fairly short and sweet (just long enough to get all the information, and just short enough so the children didn't lose interest and start some chaos in the factory).  The kids had fun putting on hair nets and seeing their parents in the same silly get-up. And for my kids, who have watched chocolate making on a small scale, they were excited about the size of the equipment, the fact that the winnower looked like a giant version of the one their grandpa built, and the sheer volume of cocoa beans that were piled up in bags in one corner. They were also excited to taste cocoa beans.



As for the goodies that we purchased in the store, there were some old favourites, like the 70% Hispaniola bar and its darker 85% version, and my new favourite, the Cap-Haitien, made from very fruity cocoa beans from Haiti. The Honduras 'Copan' bar is also a relatively new addition to Hummingbird's line, made from caramelly-flavourful cocoa beans that I am very familiar with, since I also make a few different chocolate bars from those beans.



Hummingbird also recently introduced a 60% dark-milk chocolate to the mix, which made my milk-chocolate-loving daughter very happy.




All in all, it was wonderful to see how Erica and Drew have grown their business over the last six years, from those first bars they sent me back in 2012, to the award-winning range of chocolate they now have available in FarmBoy stores across the Ottawa region, and many other retail locations worldwide.


Aging chocolate on the shelves inside Hummingbird's chocolate factory.
Chocolate moulds awaiting washing at Hummingbird Chocolate factory.


If you would like to see the factory, check Hummingbird's website at www.hummingbirdchocolate.com to book your tickets and a time, as well as find out where you can buy their delicious chocolate.

7 comments:

  1. This is really true, lovely the post. Thanks for sharing.
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  3. Agree with your assessment of Hummingbird chocolates. I have tried few, and the "Hispaniola" is great. Letterpress also had a bar made with beans from the same "La Red" beans that are no longer available. Keep us informed Lisabeth.

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  4. nice blog

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