Touring the Zotter Factory

During Easter vacation we decided to visit the Zotter chocolate factory in Riegersburg, Austria which is about 1.5 hours south of Vienna in the middle of nowhere.   For those not familiar with the Zotter brand, he is a famous Austrian chocolatier who those zany truffle bars with unique flavor combinations such as cheese and wine, peanuts and ketchup (the American bar), celery root and pineapple, and pork cracklins- which sounds really weird but is actually pretty good.  Since 2008 I have sold his bars on and off at Kerstin’s Chocolates. He also makes chocolate bars, a line of drinking chocolate, and many other things as I soon discovered. The tour of the factory is really a multi-sensory experience that allows you to see and learn about how things are done in the factory all the while eating your way through all the Zotter creations. For 12 euros (and a little less for kids) you can taste everything he makes, which is about 300 varieties! The tour starts at the Chocolate “theatre” where you see a film that shows Zotter sourcing his beans in India.  I found this interesting because India isn’t well known as a cocoa growing country. It made more sense once we learned that he has started a project where every time he sells a bar made with Indian beans, one child in the program gets served a meal.  To learn more, click here: According to the movie, he pays twice the market price for organic beans and he can trace the beans back to the individual farmer in India.  There is a big focus on tranparency, not just in the sourcing of the beans, but in the factory tour as well, inviting visitors to get up close and personal with each stage of the chocolate making process from start to finish. The first stop is the loading bay.   You see piles of jute bags filled with cocoa beans from different countries through a viewing window. In the adjacent tasting room, you can sample these beans in their raw form to taste the differences depending on the bean’s origin.  Next we see the chocolate making equipment as our audio guide explain the uses of each machine.   The chocolate is available to taste during the different stages of processing, including the nibs, the 100% liquid chocolate, and the powdered form  before it hits the conche. The next section is where things get more exciting. At the “Shokotankstelle” or the chocolate filling station, we sample the different types of chocolate in liquid form, all of the Zotter blends. You might be compelled to stick your head under the tap and pour the liquid chocolate straight in your mouth, but instead you are asked to  use a ceramic spoon that is given to you at the beginning of the tour.  You can fill it with whatever and however much you want.  I tried to pace myself but it quickly turned into a free for all as I began to realize just how many different kinds of chocolate Zotter makes and that they are all there to sample.  After the “tankstelle” we were invited to climb the “chocolate stairway to heaven”.  Here you could try all the different “Lambooka” bars which start with flavored white chocolate bars such as strawberry and banana and end with a pure 100% bar. The chocolate stairway faces a series of conveyor belts where the ganaches are poured, enrobed and cooled and where the finished ganache bars are packaged.  Unfortunately we picked Good Friday to visit so we couldn’t see any work being done, but  I didn’t really care at this point because I was on a sugar high and heading towards the hot chocolate station. When I got there, an attendent behind the bar  was waiting to hand me a cup of hot milk.  She told me to chose a hot chocolate flavor from the miniture gondolas that encircled us overhead and around the room.   I chose chili, and plopped it into my milk (it was a solid piece of chocolate) and began whisking with my own personal whisk.  All of this was really fun and pretty soon I was no longer a reviewer but overcome with the same enthusiasm as all the other Zotter customers. After the hot chocolate station, there was the Nougat station (the walnut was really good), the Bollero station (the fruit and nut one was my top choice) and it all ended to my surprise with the Zotter filled bars. How could I have forgotten about the filled bars? And how can I eat any more chocolate?    Of course, I could eat more chocolate and I did.  I tried all of them because, finally I could! The tour was a blast and I thought they did a great job of both educating customers and entertaining them at the same time.  Zotter really has a cult of personality thing going on and we gobbled it all up.

Discontinued Zotter bars ended up in a graveyard.

New and returning bars plus potatoes

We’ve got some great new bars in the shop right now, as well as some old favourites…

The popular Zotter bars have returned in fun new flavours, like Olive and Lemon, Candied Ginger, and Celery, Truffle and Port Wine. The Strawberry and ever popular Bacon versions are out as well.

There are more dark-milk Bonnat bars for those of you (like me!) who crave a rich, flavourful milk chocolate once in awhile. Java and Surabaya are on the shelves right now.

Madécasse also sent us a great new flavoured bar – sea salt and cacao nib. A big hit of sea salt with the crunch of cacao nibs, sitting in their 63% chocolate. Amazing!

Bags of Francois Pralus’ multi-coloured potatoes are also back! Not to ruin the surprise, but these are actually hazelnut praline wrapped with a chocolate shell, not potatoes. But they are incredibly fun and yummy.

Look for Mothers’ Day items coming soon!

New bars, truffles and treats

In addition to all the Easter chocolate, new truffle flavours are packing the confection case – Banoffee Pie, Vanilla Caramel, Orange Blossom, Peanut Butter & Saskatoon Berry Jam and Cherry Blossom.

We’ve received new Madagascar bars from Madécasse – a 63% ‘mellow’ and a 67% ‘smooth’ – as well as a brand new batch of Pralus bars, including some new Single Origins – Djakarta, Trinidad and Caracas. The Amano shelf is packed again too, with more Guayas, Ocumare Milk and Jembrana Milk.

More of the Zotter truffle bars have already arrived, with lots of fresh flavours for spring – Almond with Raisins, ‘Chocolate Bee’ with Honey Crisps, Lemon Polenta, Coffee Plum and Bacon, Pineapple and Paprika, Butter Caramel, Maracuja (Passion), Mango, and Goji Berries with Sesame Nougat.

And finally, Liz has decorated the Shop with these fun butterflies for Spring. So even if the weather outside is not the best, it feels like spring as soon as you step through the door.

Bacon + Chocolate = Yum

The Edmonton Journal released an article last week on the City’s infatuation with all things bacon… Both the Zotter bars and the chocolate covered bacon, available at Kerstin’s, were referenced in the article, so we thought we’d better clarify the status of our bacon and chocolate treats.

We did get some Zotter Bacon Bits bars in a couple weeks ago, but alas, they are already sold out! We’ll be sure to order some as soon as possible and will let you know when they are in.

Secondly, the chocolate covered bacon, featured last year for Fathers’ Day will be back from June 1st to June 21st. You only have two more months to wait!

In the mean time, I will leave you with this interview from Global TV last year to get your taste buds going:

New Zotter bars, more Drinking Chocolate and a few sale items

We’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for our order of Zotter truffle bars to arrive, and they are finally here! Black Cherries with Vanilla, Cheese-Walnuts-Raisins, Marc de Champagne, Pink Grapefruit, Bacon Bits, With Love (a combo of raspberry, almond and coconut) are all waiting to be scooped up.

Last week I reported that we were sold out of Drinking Chocolate, but the shelves are packed once again with both Spicy and Dark versions. And since the snow seems to be returning today, after a week of blue skies, a cup of drinking chocolate is surely in order!

There are a few things from around the Shop on sale this week:

Our remaining selection of Patric 67% and 75% bars, as well as Pralus Colombie, São Tomé e Príncipe and Ghana bars are all 25% off. Also, 40g tins of Japanese Sencha Tea (reg. $27) are 50% off.

The Shop is open until 4PM today… hope to see you soon!

Christmas Line-up 2009

Santa gets revealed!
A lot of people have been asking what our seasonal line-up will be this month. Here is what we will be offering in our store starting on Dec 1st. If you would like to put in a request for a large order, please
call us or e-mail us before Dec 5th, as we cannot guarantee availability after that date.

We will be bringing backour selection of molded chocolate Santas using the finest Valrhona milk or dark

Will you be needing any truffles? Here are some of our seasonal specials that will be
available through Xmas:
-Tiramasu You.
    -It’s a bit Nibby out there!
    -To Rum With Love
    -A Nod To Eggnog

and more!

Gift Box!
We also have gift baskets of many sizes and arrangements and  custom baskets are also available. You can build your own in the store.

We will also bring back our Christmas Chocolate Trio in either milk or
dark chocolate bark.  Three delicious, Christmas inspired barks packaged beautifully in a box that won a design award!  Also returning are our Christmas Towers, a 4 tiered box filled with
truffles, melt-aways, spiced nuts and dipped fruit. Perfect for holiday parties and gift-giving. 

Coming back soon to the Store:

caramelsIt’s been a long wait, but we have finally found a new supplier of Domori chocolate!  Famous for their prized “Porcelana” bar (thought to be the best bar in the world) and other gorgeous chocolate.  We also have their amazing chocolate and hazelnut spread and a white chocolate bar with licorice!
A new shipment of Zotter bars are also arriving shortly.  These truffle based bars from Austria combine great fair trade chocolate with imaginative ingredients such as “Black Beer”, “Sour Cherry and Sesame” and “Walnut and Cheese”!

Finally, we have some incredible salted caramels from France, seen here!