I don’t know about you, but when I hear the name Hershey, I instantly start craving chocolate. Being a chocoholic, I was excited to explore Hershey, Pennsylvania, this summer, the town that Milton Hershey built around his chocolate factory. And when I heard that The Hershey Story was not only a museum, but also a place where I could do some chocolate tasting and participate in a chocolate lab, I was thrilled. My husband and I spent the better part of a day at The Hershey Story making, tasting and learning about chocolate and the Hershey Company’s history.
A flight of chocolate. That sounds more enticing to me than a flight of wine! We tasted a flight of six chocolate beverages, chocolates that originate around the world and vary in sweetness levels. The Hershey staff recommended that we start with the darkest, most bitter, and work our way to the sweetest. They were surprised that the chocolate from Tanzania, the darkest and most bitter, was my favorite. It was no surprise to me, though, because I prefer darker, more intense chocolate. Other chocolates were from Ghana, Venezuela, Mexico, Java, and of course, Hershey’s® Milk Chocolate.
Before rolling up our sleeves and digging into chocolate in our Chocolate Lab experience, we donned gorgeous hair nets and aprons (it’s state law). Men with facial hair had to add a beard net.
We made a chocolate beach bar in our session, decorated with beach-themed chocolate tattoos made from cocoa butter (Chocolate Lab topics vary). We placed the tattoo sheet in the mold, then filled the mold with melted chocolate and sprinkled optional sea salt and graham cracker crumbs over it.
While our bars were setting up in the freezer, our instructors gave us a lesson in chocolate. We learned how cacao pods grow and are harvested and how the beans from the pod are fermented, dried, processed and crushed into nibs. We tasted the nibs, the purest form of chocolate. Some folks found them too bitter, but I liked them. Our class ended with the unmolding and packaging of our bars.
Some fun chocolate history facts:
- Chocolate consumption goes back to before the Mayans, to a group of people called the Omecs. The Omecs existed from 1200 to 400 B.C.
- Chocolate was originally only a drink, perhaps with cinnamon, nutmeg and/or red chili pepper added to it. Solid chocolate wasn’t developed until around 1840.
- Mayans used cocoa beans as a form of currency (thus the term “bean counter”).
The Hershey Story museum
The Hershey Story museum tells the story of Milton Hershey’s beginnings, how he failed several times in various businesses, then built a very successful caramel making business. He added chocolate to the line and later sold off the caramel part of the business. Museum exhibits continue with the history of The Hershey Company and Milton Hershey’s philanthropy.
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Exhibits include a working machine that wraps Hershey Kisses and a conche machine that mixes chocolate.
Fun fact: Milton Hershey’s mother wrapped Kisses, inserting the little paper and wrapping the candies in foil.
Before visiting Hershey I read the book The Emperors of Chocolate, the fascinating story of both Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars (founder of Mars Chocolate). It was fun to see some of the things I read about in the book, like a bathtub that employees used to push the chocolate from one part of the chocolate factory to another.
The museum includes exhibits not only about the chocolate company, but also about the community itself that Milton Hershey built. While other factory towns rented homes to employees, Milton Hershey sold them to employees at a reasonable cost. He built a park, a theater, a medical facility and did whatever he could to make Hershey, Pennsylvania, “the sweetest place on Earth.”
I couldn’t leave the museum without stopping at The Hershey Press and have a copy of the latest newspaper issue sent to my email address.
If you go to The Hershey Story
The Hershey Story, located at 63 West Chocolate Avenue in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is open seven day a week (closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). Hours vary by season. Check the website for hours, admission rates and further details.
Accommodations: My accommodations were at the Red Umbrella Bed and Breakfast in nearby Grantville, Pennsylvania.
Find the best hotel deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.
Disclosures: My visit to The Hershey Story was hosted by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg and The Hershey Story. My admission was complimentary; however, any opinions express in this article are my own.
This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase or book a room these links, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
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