Benns Ethicoa Chocolate Factory Tours, Cheras
December 17, 2019
Step aside, Willy Wonka: Malaysia now has its own chocolate factory that'll take children and cacao lovers of all ages on tantalising tours, bringing you on a voyage from bean to bar, tracing how chocolate makes its way from cocoa farms to dessert shops.
This enjoyably educational exploration is held at Benns Ethicoa Chocolate Factory, the new Cheras facility of Benns Chocolate, which is celebrating its twentieth year. Benns' founder, Perak-born Ng Tuck Ming, originally worked in a chocolate factory in Singapore in the 1960s and established his own brand, Highland Chocolate, in 1973. He moved back to Malaysia and launched Benns Chocolate in 1999; two decades later, Benns Ethicoa (the name combines the words 'ethics' and 'cocoa') strives to share the joy of artisanal chocolate and sustainably give back to the cocoa-growing community.
Tours of the factory are free for children aged 12 and below, or RM30 per person for the rest of us. The experience includes a free chocolate pastry or bon bons set with beverage at the conclusion of the tour, held every hour from 11am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday, with eight participants per tour. Call 03-9082-0955 or email [email protected] to book your session.
If you've never seen a cacao tree in real life or held a freshly cracked cocoa pod, this tour will thrill the senses. You'll even have the memorable chance to taste freshly harvested ripe cocoa, which boasts the fruity sweetness of mangosteens instead of the final product of store-bought chocolate that we know and love.
Your friendly guide will brief you on chocolate's history, geography, science and sociology - it's all conducted in a lively manner that makes learning truly fun. Expect to discover cocoa's centuries-old origins, where it's now cultivated across the world, and why Benns Ethicoa chooses to source its beans from single-farm estates in Malaysia and other Asian countries (more on that soon!).
The glimpse into the manufacturing of chocolate is equally eye-opening, courtesy of a completely visible facility, with workers separated only by glass from the tour participants. Each section is clearly labelled with short descriptions of the process - you might also have the opportunity to taste the chocolate at different stages of its production, from conching to tempering, finding out how Benns makes particularly smooth chocolate by perfectly refining its cocoa solids and sugar crystals, yielding up to 500 kilograms of chocolate here everyday.
With our understanding of chocolate now exponentially heightened, the tour leads us into Benns Ethicoa's in-house cafe and store, where you'll find chocolate products that are natural, halal-certified, vegan and gluten-free, with cacao nibs, cocoa butter and unrefined cane sugar combining to produce 72 percent dark chocolate.
The variety of connoisseur-level products to possibly purchase home is impressive, including chocolate bars, chocolate drink powder, bon bons, and even chocolate-coated almonds. Gift sets are also available, with tasting notes that illustrate how chocolate made with cocoa from different farms across this region can convey the distinctive flavours of their terroir, not unlike wine or coffee - the fruity smokiness of Sungai Ruan in Malaysia's Pahang state, a tangy earthiness from Lampang in Thailand, the creamy warmth of Vietnam's Vung Tau, the nectarous sweetness of Calinan in the Philippines, and the vibrant nuttiness of Anaimalai in India.
Benns Ethicoa not only proves that Asia can be source of premium chocolate at its finest, but by directly sourcing its beans from farmers and striking out the middlemen, Benns pays the farmers up to three times the market price of cocoa. The farmers, who are typically underpaid and overworked, can then be spurred and supported to improve their farming practices and nurture even better beans.
A bite of the Benns Ethicoa cafe's cakes or a sip of its hot chocolate convinces us that the entire effort is worthwhile. The cafe also serves some intriguing concoctions like cacao tea (cacao in tea bags, simmered aromatically in hot tea) and chocolate affogato (with indulgent ice cream made with Sungai Ruan cacao). Chocoholics, your dream destination has finally emerged, powered by pure passion and potent pleasure.
Many thanks to Benns Chocolate for having us here and for creating this intimate peek into the wonderful world of chocolate.
Lot 6, Jalan Cj 1/6c, Kawasan Perindustrian Cheras Jaya, Batu 11, 43200 Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. Open Tues-Sun, 11am-5pm. Tel: 03-9082-0955