Have you heard of French Broad Chocolate? The Asheville, NC-based chocolate company gives tours of their factory complete with a chocolate tasting. And while you won’t see any Oompa Loompa’s on this tour, or float down a river of chocolate on your way to rooms in the factory, you will learn where cacao beans come from and see how French Broad Chocolate turns the beans into their delicious bars, bonbons, and sipping chocolate. We attended the Bean-to-Bar tour and we have everything you’ll want to know about this educational and delicious family activity.
Thanks to French Broad Chocolate Factory and Cafe for providing complimentary tickets so we could bring this review to our readers.
The French Broad Chocolate Factory Bean to Bar Tour
What will you learn on this bean-to-bar tour? Literally, how chocolate is made starting with the bean and ending with the finished bar or product. Since chocolate making actually begins on the farms where cacao pods grow, and we can’t hop on a plane to Costa Rica to start our tour, the bean-to-bar tour officially begins in a classroom at the French Broad Chocolate Factory with a brief presentation on cacao pods, farms, and the process of harvesting the beans.
The tour guide is extremely knowledgeable and encouraged lots of questions. We learned a little geography about the parts of the world where cacao can grow. And, then we got to see how cacao pods are opened which is a process that is not automated and must be done by hand, meaning every piece of chocolate you’ve ever eaten has started by hand.
The interior of a cacao pod is totally not what I expected, and the work that goes into harvesting the beans out of a single pod is pretty amazing. But I won’t spoil this part of the tour for you, because they will do a far better job explaining it than I will.
During this classroom time, guests have an opportunity to taste 4 different types of chocolate and a roasted cacao bean. Two of the chocolate pieces are single-origin meaning the beans used to make the chocolate came from only one location. It was amazing to taste the differences in the flavors of the chocolate that came from different places. Some flavors were fruity while others were more nutty or earthy. In fact, there’s a whole chocolate flavor wheel. Who knew?
The Factory Tour
So, the beans have been harvested, fermented, dried, packaged, and shipped. They’ve arrived at the factory, so now what? It’s time to tour the factory.
On the factory tour portion, the tour guide will take your group to large viewing windows at each room in the factory where you can watch employees and machines working to make the chocolate sold by French Broach Chocolate. Our guide told us what was happening in each room and what the equipment we were viewing was doing, beginning with roasting the beans, then separating the shell from the cacao nibs. You’ll see how the chocolate is moved through the factory through pipes in the ceiling for each step of the process turning it into the creamy liquid chocolate they need to make their bars, bonbons, chips, and more.
There is even a stop on the tour where the chocolate aroma is piped out of the room to just above the viewing window. Our guide referred to it as an “aroma shower”. Let me tell you, I went 10 years without a sense of smell due to a chronic disease called AERD, I was never so glad to have my sense of smell back as I was standing under that aroma shower. It was magnificent warm, creamy, chocolate perfection somehow all rolled into a scent. You could practically taste it. They should bottle it.
The Cafe at French Broad Chocolate Factory
When arriving for the tour, you’ll check in at the cafe’s register. There is a delicious array of chocolate baked goods, bonbons, coffee drinks, and hot chocolate to purchase at the cafe. Perhaps the coolest part is that you can take your treats to the bar across from some of the factory viewing windows and watch the chocolate being made, while you enjoy it.
Cafe items are not included in the tour, but we arrived about 30 minutes early to purchase and enjoy some treats before the tour. It was a good move. The macaroon my son chose was basically the size of his hand. He said the hot chocolate he also ordered was the “best ever” and I really enjoyed my chocolate-dipped peanut butter cookie and coffee.
The cafe is also where you can purchase boxed chocolates, bars, and other gifts like chocolate-scented soap, candles, and even tea and t-shirts.
You do not have to attend the tour to visit the cafe. So, if you’re in Asheville and craving something sweet, you can totally swing by the cafe. And, I definitely suggest that you do.
Restrooms are available in the cafe area.
Can I bring kids on the factory tour at French Broad Chocolate?
Yes! My 11-year-old son was very engaged throughout the entire tour and the tour guide welcomed his questions and observations about flavors during the tasting.
That said, the tour is about an hour long, split about equally between classroom time and walking around the factory. I wouldn’t recommend this tour for kids who wouldn’t be able to stay focused for that time, but, that’s really up to parents. There is no age requirement. For younger kids, you might just want to visit the cafe and check out a couple of factory windows visible from the cafe floor.
The tour would be an amazing homeschool field trip. My kids are homeschooled and I just love well-done educational opportunities like this. Could we have learned all that in a book? Maybe. But it wouldn’t have been as cool, he wouldn’t have been as interested, and we wouldn’t have gotten to smell and taste that chocolate. It was a great tour!
Want to go?
Tours and tasting opportunities are offered daily at French Broad Chocolate Factory and Cafe.
Bean-to-Bar tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday tours at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm, and Monday and Tuesday at 11 am and 1 pm. These tours cost $12 for adults, $8 for kids ages 7 to 12, and are free for ages 6 and under.
On Sundays, no tour is offered, but there is an extended tasting opportunity called “Exploration of Origin Chocolate Tasting” at 12 pm and 2 pm. This tasting is $20 for adults and is not recommended for kids.
Private tours and field trips can also be booked!
Parking is available on site, and the factory is located across from the French Broad River. There are numerous places nearby to park to enjoy the paved trails along the river before or after your tour.
Book your tour or tasting at French Broad Chocolate Factory and Cafe.
French Broad Chocolate Factory and Cafe
821 Riverside Drive, Asheville, NC