Celebrating its tenth year, the Harrogate Skills 4 Living – a local charity working for the benefit of adults with learning disabilities and autism launched The Harrogate Chocolate Factory with the help of the Forbes Foundation.

Harrogate Chocolate Factory is one of two social enterprises set up by Harrogate Skills for Living’s Skills Bridge programmes with the aim of building bridges to employment and independence for our trainees. Under the guidance of tutors, our trainees are involved in all parts of the process of making the chocolate bars, from sorting and roasting the beans right through to packaging and taking to place of sale.

The chocolate making enterprise has proved to be a perfect choice as the production process follows a series of routine steps that can be taught and mastered relatively easily. There is a level of repetition but also a variety within the processes which suits our trainees. The repetition and small number of processes gives the trainees the best chance to master them, and produce amazing chocolate. Seeing their finished product at the end also boosts their confidence and makes them think “wow, I made that” and they can be proud of what they have achieved.

As well as operating machinery and following the bean to bar process our trainees learn about health and safety within the workplace, food hygiene and work place behaviours, norms and expectations. All vital skills which they can transfer to an external work placement or paid employment.  then develop within paid employment.

As this is an enterprise, it is not only the manufacturing of the chocolate that happens in the factory. There are business techniques and experimentations for the chocolate that the trainees can get involved with. From filled chocolates to Easter eggs, the trainees are also in a creative space where they can freely try out different things within the factory (as long as they don’t mind getting their hands a little dirty!)

What makes Harrogate Chocolate Factory special, is that we make our chocolate starting from the raw bean, all the way up to the wrapped bar. This process is called the “Bean to Bar”, which is started by slowly roasting the bean. Once cooled, the bean is then crushed and “winnowed” to separate the shell from the delicious cocoa nib. These nibs are then ground down with stone wheels known as Stone Melangers. The other ingredients are also added such as coconut palm sugar, vanilla pod, cocoa butter and in our milk chocolate varieties, vegan milk powder, and conched until the mixture is completely smooth, melted chocolate. Before being ready to pour into the mould the chocolate must be tempered which gives us a finished product with a professional sheen, snap and taste. These bars are then fully wrapped and ready to be sold and eaten.