Last spring in Guadeloupe I visited an archeological park where I got to sample the pulp from a fresh-picked cacao pod. I heard more about chocolate cultivation at two coffee plantations. Given my obsession with chocolate, I decided to take the process a step further on my short visit to the Costa Blanca in Spain, where I took a tour of the Valor chocolate factory in Villajoyosa.
The tour is free, and you just show up at the factory, take a ticket from a machine, and wait until the next tour. If it’s full—the maximum is 50 people—you’ll have to wait for the next one. Note that there are only two tours in English per day: at 11:00 and 16:00. Also keep in mind that despite the empty spots visible in their parking lot, tour participants may not park there, so you’ll have to cruise the streets around the factory to find a spot.
A Promotional Film
It was actually billed as a chocolate museum, but the first stop was a small hall where we were shown the obligatory film giving the history, in very vague terms, of the Valor factory and the chocolate industry in Villajoyosa in general. It was pretty minimal on actual information: instead, it seemed a long commercial for how wonderful Valor chocolate is, with lots of shots of people taking bites of chocolate and looking ecstatically into the distance.
After the film, which prompted quite a bit of giggling at the sight of one apparently orgasmic actor after another, we were led to the museum itself, devoted specifically to the Valor factory’s history. The guide first explained how chocolate is processed at the plantation: the same information I learned in Guadeloupe. In Valor’s case the chocolate is imported from Ghana, Ecuador and Panama.
After her brief explanation, we were left to wander the few rooms of the museum, where old tools like cacao mills, weights, molds, and so on were displayed. Family photos emphasized that Valor is a family business, founded in 1881 and still run by the family.
The Valor Factory
Next we entered the factory itself where, unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures. Our route took us upstairs above the factory floor, allowing us to view the conveyor belts moving the chocolate through the stages of production and packing. The guide told us that anywhere from 80,000 to 130,000 kilos per day are produced there, by almost 500 workers, though we saw very few in action.
The last stop was a “tasting room,” though it was as much a shop as a tasting room. We were offered tastes of both high-end chocolates, like some small chocolate cups filled with pineapple cream, and more standard milk chocolates or milk chocolate with nuts. The rest of the room, however, was lined with cases of chocolates for sale, and the shop did a brisk business.
The museum was entertaining enough for an hour, though limited in that we didn’t learn much about the factory itself. I can’t complain, since it was free and included as much chocolate as I cared to taste. I chatted with some visitors from the UK during the tour, and they assured me that the Cadbury factory tour in Birmingham is much better. I can’t vouch for that myself.
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