To say Villajoyosa is famous for chocolate is a bit of an understatement. Not many towns anywhere can boast three working chocolate factories. And in times gone by, chocolate was even bigger; in the late 19th century, there were hundreds of chocolate makers in La Vila, mostly making it in their own homes. Even by the 1930s, there were still around 30 producers in the town.
Chocolate-making seems to have begun here in the early 1800s. The two basic raw ingredients, cacao beans and sugar, were easily imported from the Spanish colonies in central and south America via the port of La Vila.
The cacao beans were ground by hand into a paste, using a concave stone and a roller (see pic left from the Valor museum). To get it to the required smooth consistency meant hours of effort. The bitter-tasting paste was then sweetened with sugar to make it palatable and poured into moulds to set. Of course nowadays, all the hard work is done by machine (see the mechanical mill from the Chocolates Pérez factory above).
Today, the big beast of chocolate here in La Vila is Chocolates Valor, with a large, modern factory on the outskirts of the town (Avinguda Pianista Gonzalo Soriano). You can find Valor chocolate pretty much anywhere in Spain; it's even been spotted in a supermarket as far away as Valparaiso in Chile. Valor have a good museum and run free tours of the factory in Spanish and English (50 people per visit, first come first served). You can also sample Valor in their chocolatería on the main street (Avinguda del País Valencia). Chocolate con churros (fried dough sticks with sugar dipped in liquid chocolate) is a must if you haven't tried it before.
There are two smaller chocolate producers in town: Chocolates Pérez on Partida Mediases and Chocolates Clavileño on Carrer Colón. Pérez is well worth a visit; the tour is a lot friendlier and more personal than the Valor experience and if the production line is running, you get to see up close how chocolate is made. Don't bother visiting Clavileño; they don't do factory tours and the museum is tiny.
On the road out of town towards Benidorm, you'll see Chocolates Marcos Tonda. Once a well-known Villajoyosa brand, they don't make their chocolate in La Vila these days, so I guess they don't really count as local (but their showroom still has some nice chocolate to try!)
See Pérez chocolate turrón being made in the short video below; the ingredient being added by the sackful is almonds.
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© Guy Pelham 2017
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