Dinah samples a chocolate covered pretzel. Joel Page/Staff Photographer
Chocolate covered pretzels emerge from the chiller. Joel Page/Staff Photographer
Melisha Lucier makes nonpareils. Joel Page/Staff Photographer
Haven’s Candies owner Erin Collins and master chocolatier Art Dillon pose with "Shelby" a 418 lbs solid chocolate lobster at Haven's factory and store in Westbrook. Joel Page/Staff Photographer
Dinah Routhier, 8, joined by sister Sophie, right, smiles when she gets a sample bag of candy following a tour at Haven's Candies factory in Westbrook. Joel Page/Staff Photographer
It’s an oft-used phrase, but what is it actually like to be a kid in a candy store?
To help answer that question, we assigned 8-year-old Dinah Routhier (daughter of this reporter) to take the guided factory tour of Haven’s Candies in Westbrook and tell us all about it. The assignment is part of our continuing series of kid reviews of kids’ activities. Though there’s no doubt grown-ups will enjoy touring Haven’s as well.
The tour takes about 45 minutes or more, and includes close-up views of melters, taffy pullers and lots of other equipment used in creating sweet treats. The highlight is probably the enrober, a machine that completely covers candies with melted chocolate. Master candy maker Art Dillon gives the tours. He shares his knowledge, and he also shares just-made candy with visitors.
Here’s what 8-year-old Dinah thought:
What was your favorite part of the tour, and why?
I liked the arober, the enrober, I mean, because at the end you get to eat chocolate-covered pretzels. I liked seeing the pretzels go through the chocolate waterfall.
What are some of the other things you think kids will like on this tour?
Probably the giant chocolate bunnies, and the giant thing of taffy.
If you went back to take the tour again, what different kinds of candies would you like to try?
I’d like to try the nonpareils, because I saw them being made, and because a lot of places make nonpareils and I’d like to see if Haven’s makes them very differently.
What are some of the things you learned on the tour?
I learned that cocoa beans only grow within 20 degrees of the equator. That was interesting to me, because I love geography.
What was the most interesting thing you saw?
The giant chocolate lobster (418 pounds and a contender for a Guinness World Record) because it is so big and I probably couldn’t eat it all.
Is there anything you think kids should know before going?
I think they should know they’re going to eat some stuff, probably. (Each visitor is given a goody bag of treats to eat).
Can you describe the “beach ball” taffy that you sampled?
Well it’s got all sorts of different fruit flavors in it, and it’s sort of like strawberry-flavored and minty-flavored, sort of. It’s hard to explain.
Is there anything you’d have them change about the tour?
THE HAVEN’S CANDIES FACTORY TOUR begins in the entry way of Haven’s factory store in Westbrook. The tours are led by Master Candy Maker Art Dillon, who begins by talking a little about Haven’s 100-year history, and explains where chocolate comes from.
Donning hair nets, visitors are then taken into the factory’s kitchen, where taffy is pulled on a machine with rotating rods, and where candy is laid out on tables cooled with water. During a recent tour, two giant batches of orange cream-flavored taffy, spread out in the shape of very large pizzas, were cooling on a table. On another table were molds filled with corn starch, used to make the various cream or flavored centers that go inside the chocolates.
One room over from the kitchen is probably the highlight of the tour, the enrober. This is where candies are “enrobed” in chocolate. On a recent tour, pretzels traveled the enrober’s conveyor belt to the “bottomer” where the bottoms were soaked in chocolate. The pretzels continued moving to another station, a waterfall of chocolate that covered them completely. After a ride through a cooling tunnel, the pretzels were ready to be tested and Dillon offered some as samples to tour-takers.
The tour continued past some bigger-than-life Easter bunnies and giant chocolate Santas. In another area, visitors were shown how Haven’s makes shaped chocolates in various molds. Giant melters were melting various kinds of chocolate, and a trigger-operated spigot allowed candy makers to shoot the chocolate wherever they wanted it. During a recent tour visitors got to watch dark chocolate being squirted onto a baking sheet as part of the making of nonpareils. In summer, the tour includes the taffy room, where taffy is cut and wrapped by old-fashioned machines that require some human guidance.
The tour lasted more than 45 minutes, and ended with each visitor getting a goody bag of five Haven’s candies, including chocolates.