We felt as if we were walking into “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” as my daughter, Nandini, and I strolled into Cerreta Candy Co. in downtown Glendale.
We smelled chocolate, caramel and peppermint. We saw an array of colored candies, from mint chocolates to golden coins. For a moment, we felt happily overwhelmed, unsure where to turn.
As we made our way to the line for the factory tour, my eyes were drawn toward a conveyer belt similar to the one in the beloved “I Love Lucy” episode in which Lucy and Ethel, unable to keep up with the pace of production, stuff chocolates in their mouths, hats and uniforms.
Cerreta Candy Co. moved from Ohio to Glendale in 1989. Five generations of Cerretas have operated the business, which produces 6,000 pounds of chocolate daily, using machinery that dates as far back as 1929.
Cerreta welcomes nearly 300,000 visitors annually. On its guided tours, visitors get an inside look at how candies and chocolates are made.
We had the pleasure of touring the facility with Marisa Cerreta, whose husband, Joe, is one of four brothers (including Joner, Jerry and James Jr.) who now run the business.
“The cocoa beans are from Belize and are dried for six years,” Marisa said. “Once dried, they are pressed for cocoa butter. This butter is then made into powder, which makes the chocolate.”
Each step—from the heating of the ingredients to the cooling, cutting and wrapping of the chocolates—requires precision.
Nandini was fascinated to see caramel heated in huge copper vats and to experience the coolness of the chilling room. She asked about Cerreta’s biggest seller. Marisa said French Mint Truffles are among the company’s most popular candies.
At the end of the tour, kids can make their own “pizzas” with milk chocolate and condiments. They take their masterpieces home in small pizza boxes.
Amy Turner, of Peoria, brought her daughter, Presli, 8, to the chocolate factory because she thought it would be a great indoor activity. They weren’t disappointed.
Kids of all ages will find it fun, and I must say that even I enjoyed learning how chocolate is made. The best part? Everyone gets samples.
IF YOU GO: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 30-minute tours are at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. weekdays. Free; $6 tastings; $12.50 chocolate pizza. 5345 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale. 623-930-9000 or cerreta.com.