Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we took a tour of a local chocolate production facility few people get to see, aside from the college kids who run it.
We’re not talking about Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. We’re talking about Cal Poly’s chocolate lab, where students melt, mold and wrap chocolate bars.
Lily Engel is a food science senior and student manager of Cal Poly Chocolates.
“I love it. It doesn’t feel like a job at all,” Engel said. “It’s definitely inspired me to work with chocolate after college.”
Engel is one of about 25 students who fit in chocolate-making between classes.
“We have only a few hours in the day to get in and get out and produce 1,200 bars of chocolate,” she said.
The chocolate lab produces 1,200 bars of chocolate each week and churns them out in nine different flavors from peanut butter crunch to spicy cayenne. However, the best sellers are plain milk and dark chocolate.
“We’re selling out of chocolate constantly,” Engel said, noting that many students give the chocolates as gifts to family and friends as an edible Cal Poly souvenir.
The chocolate lab started as a Cal Poly class years ago but has since transformed into a full-time operation. Cal Poly Chocolates gives students hands-on experience in food processing, sanitation and of course, working with chocolate.
“[Chocolate] is actually very complex and people don’t really know that,” Engel said. “There’s a lot going on with the crystal structure and it’s very temperamental.”
You can buy Cal Poly Chocolates in most local grocery stores, on the Cal Poly campus or online.