I’m a chocolate lover.
I like the bitter, melt in your mouth sensation that comes with the perfect piece of dark chocolate. It reminds me of a cup of Parisian hot chocolate.
There are any number of delicious chocolate bar manufacturers, but my favorite comes from Iceland.
When my husband and I decided to visit Iceland a few years ago, a tour of the chocolate factory was on our list. I won’t go so far as to say that’s the reason we went to Iceland, but I won’t deny it either.
It had rained and was cold most of our time on the volcanic island, but on this particular September day the sun was out and we only needed our down jackets to be comfortable. Walking shoes on and camera in hand, we set off to our chocolate factory tour.
The walk to the Omnom chocolate factory followed the edge of the water. Reykjavik, like so many cities where the weather can be drab or where winter is the longest season, has brightly colored buildings and colorful pots of flowers filling the landscape. It’s a visually enjoyable city to explore, especially all its side streets and out of the way places.
We arrived a bit early for our tour, so we sat outside at one of the picnic tables eating our free chocolate samples from the Omnom check-in counter. I could not have been happier.
Except when our tour started.
I thought we’d be taken through the facility, shown the process of making chocolate bars, and sent on our way with a token bar or two. But no, or in Icelandic, en nei.
We started our tour, along with twenty-four other chocolate lovers, in a room housing three long stainless-steel tables each with four stools lined up on either side. At another metal table at the front of the room were piles of chocolate bars.
A fun thing about Omnom is their packaging. Each of the different kinds of chocolate bars comes with its own edgy design and I knew them all by heart. Actually, I have a collection of them, but maybe you could keep that under your hat. I could see three different designs on the front table.
Enter Einar*, a nice young man who was to be our tour guide for the afternoon.
“Okay!” I said to my husband as I bore a very big smile. I wasn’t expecting this, but I was definitely delighted.
For the next hour, Einar told us all about the chocolate making process and the different kinds of chocolate. I should point out here that Icelandic schools teach English, so while an American, namely me, would never be able to learn Icelandic, most Icelanders speak lovely English.
As Einar took us through the process of making chocolate bars, we taste tested along the way. First came the Madagascar 66% chocolate. Einar took several Madagascar bars from his stash and snapped them into pieces. He placed three bars on each table. We each took a piece of broken chocolate, placed it on our tongue where it melted slightly and chewed it slowly as it continued to melt. Einar asked us to describe the flavors we were tasting. I tasted a hint of orange? Some cherry? It was like wine tasting but with chocolate.
After our table devoured each tiny piece of the Madagascar bars, Einar delved into a discussion about the Nicaraguan 73% chocolate. Again, he broke up several bars, placed them on our table and asked us to taste the notes tantalizingly buried in the chocolate. Very different from the Madagascar. Our table nibbled at the remaining pieces.
We hadn’t quite finished with the Madagascar when Einar broke up and placed several bars of Tanzania 70% chocolate at our table. Each of us took one small piece and tried desperately to find the notes.
I felt bad for the Tanzania chocolate. I hadn’t paced myself well at all and besides, how was I to know there was a limit as to how much rich, dark, beautiful chocolate my taste buds could handle? That’s not to say I didn’t give the Tanzania a few more tries, because I did. But I never quite got a taste of the notes that Einar was hoping we’d identify.
Leaving pieces of Tanzania chocolate on our table, Einar dressed us all in hair nets and took us into the factory where we could see and smell the now too familiar chocolate bars being stirred in mixers, molded, and then packaged.
The bars are made in small batches and each bar is individually wrapped. The factory reminded me of being in the kitchen during the holidays, making confections, and filling containers for gift giving, perhaps eating more than I gifted. We were each given the opportunity to make our own chocolate bar with fun add-ins like nuts or pieces of dried fruit. It was a sensual feast, but the thrill was gone.
As we passed through the check-out area, I bought a couple of chocolate bars to take home, souvenirs of a chocolate lover’s dream come true.
* The name of our tour guide has been changed because I don't recall his real name - sorry...
Thanks to Omnon for an amazing tour and the most delicious chocolate bars ever! https://omnomchocolate.com/collections/dark