Update: Hershey's announced on Tuesday, January 27, 2009, that the Scharffen Berger factory in Berkeley will be closing at an undisclosed date in 2009. They expect to keep the chocolate cafe and retail store open at the same location, but factory tours will no longer be available once manufacturing stops.
Scharffen Berger Factory Tour Details
- What it is: A lecture about the history and making of chocolate, and a tour through the Scharffen Berger factory.
- Location: 914 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707
- Cost: Free, but reservations are required.
- Length: About 1 hour
- Free Samples: Samples of chocolate are passed around after the tour. They are not individually wrapped, so although they are “unlimited,” the situation discourages unlimited consumption.
- Website details: Scharffen Berger Website
The Scharffen Berger Factory Tour is actually about 80% lecture, 20% tour. Located in a small brick factory that used to manufacture Heinz ketchup, the majority of the tour takes place in a classroom-style room with benches for tour participants to sit on. During this portion of the tour, the guide explains the history of chocolate, the manufacturing process, and the origin of Scharffen Berger. There are visual aids such as pictures, maps, and small bowls of cocoa beans and nibs that are passed around during this time, and towards the end, samples of broken chocolate bars are passed around on communal plates to taste.
After the guide has explained exactly what each machine in the factory does, the group dons hair nets and ear muffs and has a brief walk-through of the factory. There are painted lines that the group must follow, so that no one risks injury or interferes with the machinery. After seeing the factory, I understood why most of the tour takes place in one room: the factory is little! It’s amazing that they produce all of their chocolate from this location, because it’s really quite small. The tour ends in the gift shop, where there are more free samples and, of course, copious merchandise to buy.
If you are still hungry after the tour, there is a café attached that serves salads, sandwiches, and delicious chocolate desserts. Finally, a word of caution: if you take a weekend tour, the machinery will not be running. You can still walk through the factory, but you will not see chocolate being produced.
Scharffen Berger Factory Tour: Final Thoughts
I did enjoy my time at Scharffen Berger. It was fascinating to see the exact place where one of my favorite chocolates is produced, and amazing to learn that their machinery is ancient (many pieces are 70-80 years old) yet still functioning beautifully. I thought the lecture portion was a little too long, as many of the children in the group were quite restless, and even many adults were wriggling in the uncomfortable benches. I wish there was a way for them to incorporate the information sharing into the walking tour itself, but given the factory’s setup, it doesn’t seem practical. I enjoyed the samples but wish they were individually wrapped, because by the end of the tour I was actually too full to enjoy all of them! Of course, an hour later I was cursing my stupidity and craving chocolate again. All in all, a very well-presented, informative tour, but I wouldn’t recommend it for families with children younger than 10.