Behind the scenes at Purdys-1

If you’ve ever driven by the big purple Purdys Chocolatier building on Kingsway near Boundary Road (at 8330 Chester Street) and wondered what goes on inside that massive space, look no further.

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I went behind the scenes last month and got lucky with a private tour that showed off lots of different chocolates being made all in the same morning.

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Purdys Chocolatier Rachel Sawatzky is definitely no stranger to the world of chocolate. A passionate chocolate teacher and former owner of Cocoa Nymph has been inventing new products for the Vancouver-based company for just over two years and what a job she has!

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Purdys launches between two and three new items each quarter (about 16 per year and growing).

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As we walk from room to room, employees are mixing up cream centers, pouring caramel, adding enormous bags of sugar to the production area, making white chocolate lollies, sorting chocolates and packing boxes for the 75 stores across Canada.

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Customers are more interested than ever in knowing what’s new in chocolate, from origins to trends, and Purdys keeps the lineup fresh by working with ingredients and testing them in the kitchen where Rachel feels at home.

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The kitchen’s cupboards are loaded with flavours, liqueurs, and chocolate-making equipment. Off to the side is a small education centre where the chocolate making classes are offered for groups. I’m first given an introduction to chocolate history and production.

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The process begins with (white) cocoa beans that are wrapped in banana leaves to ferment, a process that turns them brown. Beans are then dried and sent off to be manufactured.

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Purdys gets their chocolate from a few chocolate makers in Belgium and from one in California (specializing in single-origin chocolate).

Their chocolate making classes (chocolate bark, truffles) are offered at three locations: South Granville in Vancouver, TD Centre in Toronto and Stone Road Mall in Guelph, Ontario. East Vancouver’s factory kitchen holds classes for groups of 12 or more.

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I’m here to learn how to make truffles. I choose dark chocolate shells, maple flavouring, macadamia nuts plus Himalayan sea salt to sprinkle on top. Sounds like a great combination, right? There’s many flavours and liqueurs to choose from, but the moment Rachel mentions maple, my decision’s made.

The chocolate is poured into a piping bag, tip cut off and off I go, filling the shells with chocolate (the smell is divine in here!). The pro tip is to keep a finger close to the opening and squeeze out with some force so that the chocolate fills the shells evenly.

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I get the hang of it after awhile and once they’re all filled, it’s time to sprinkle the salt.

The two-hour classes are fun for families, couples, groups and team-building.

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