Harbor Sweets Chocolate Factory: No Golden Ticket Required

Posted: June 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Harbor Sweets, Salem, Sweets and Treats | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

We didn’t see any Oompa Loompas, but there is a working chocolate factory just a few blocks from Salem center, complete with vats of chocolate, copper kettles full of hot sugar, and a (small) waterfall of white chocolate.

Many North Shore residents are familiar with Harbor Sweets, makers of the famous sailboat-shaped Sweet Sloop: a triangle of almond buttercrunch covered in white chocolate and dipped in dark chocolate and crushed pecans. But few are aware that the company offers free tours of the factory on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 to 12:00. The company is also happy to accommodate groups (like Girl Scout troops) almost any time with a reservation.

One of the great things about the tour is that despite having been in business for 36 years, Harbor Sweets is still a very small operation. So rather than viewing production from a catwalk above a factory floor, you get an up-close look at the cooking, tempering, molding, wrapping, and packaging of the company’s sweet treats, which is done mostly by hand.

Our tour started in the best way possible, with a platter of rich chocolates to sample. Sweet Sloops are in the middle, at the bottom are Sweet Shells (dark chocolate with an orange crunch), and around the edges are a sampling of Dark Horse molded chocolates. While munching, we watched a short film about the company, which Ben Strohecker began in his basement—he challenged himself to create the best piece of candy in the world, regardless of cost.

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We progressed on to a room filled with vats of melting chocolate (dark, milk, and white) and saw where batches of caramel for Sand Dollars and almond buttercrunch for Sweet Sloops are mixed by hand in copper kettles as they cook. The caramel is dispensed in dollops on large table, and when the temperature is perfect, a ringing ship’s bell calls all nearby workers to quickly press on pecan halves before they’re completely cool.

Another room holds the production line for finishing their signature candy. Triangles of cooled almond buttercrunch receive a coating of white chocolate top and bottom, and the sail is created by hand with an iced tea spoon. Finally, the pieces are dipped in dark chocolate and crushed pecans to become Sweet Sloops.

Finished chocolates are fed into one of three antique foil wrapping machines and packaged into bags or boxes by hand. The tour ends at the factory’s small store where you can purchase boxes of chocolates as well as individual bars, ice cream toppings, and Sail Mix.

Not only are Harbor Sweets’ chocolates something special, the people behind the candy are as well—warm, welcoming, and very enthusiastic about creating a quality product. Everyone we met was happy to share the experience with us.

Production varies due to season (late fall through Easter is the busiest time), so if you go during the summer, we suggest calling ahead to find out what’s happening on that day— although the facility is fascinating to see any time and truly a New England original.

Harbor Sweets
85 Leavitt Street, Salem
(978) 745-7648
www.harborsweets.com

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3 Comments on “Harbor Sweets Chocolate Factory: No Golden Ticket Required”

  1. #1 Larry Cultrera said at 12:49 pm on June 19th, 2009:

    Their chocolates are delish! I worked at a company that used to print their labels, (they probably still do). I work at another label company now.

  2. #2 Philip said at 4:06 pm on June 19th, 2009:

    I enjoy Stowaway Sweets more

  3. #3 JR said at 10:47 am on June 22nd, 2009:

    Larry, it’s funny you say that, because we noticed that their packaging is really top-notch. We were given some samples of the chocolates, and I tried a Sweet Shell last night. So, so good!

    Philip, I guess we don’t have to wonder where to shop for your Christmas gift!


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