Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cadbury World and the Day of Driving

We started today with a little bit of fun: a visit to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory here in Dunedin! Well, to clarify, my mom and I went to Cadbury World, while my poor dad went downtown, signed the agreement for our new rental car, drove it back to the hostel, took the old rental car down to the petrol station to fill up, and then drove it back to the hostel as well. I certainly didn't realise cars were going to be such a headache on this trip.

The Cadbury Chocolate Factory is located at 280 Cumberland Street, almost right in downtown Dunedin, across the from the train station, and just a block down and over from the Octagon. The factory stands on the site of the first chocolate and coca manufacturing plant in the Southern hemisphere, started in 1884 by a man named Richard Hudson. The present factory became affiliated with Cadbury in 1930, and in 1991 became known as Cadbury Confectionery Limited. Today they manufacture all sorts of chocolates and goodies, from Cadbury chocolate bars to Roses and Jaffas and Buttons and huge amounts of chocolate crumb, shipped overseas and used in the chocolate manufacturing process in other Cadbury factories.

Chocolate crumb is a vacuum-dried mixture of cocoa solids, milk, and sugar; at most chocolate factories in the world, it is the base product for making various chocolate products. However, because the Cadbury factory in Dunedin is located so close the dairy cows of Otago, which produce all the milk for the factory, the Dunedin operation does not use chocolate crumb in its chocolate manufacturing process: instead, they use fresh milk (one of the reasons, they claim, their chocolate tastes so good!). Nevertheless, they continue to manufacture and ship chocolate crumb to other factories in Asia, as New Zealand has a plentiful supply of milk and milk powder.

As a result of no longer needing to stockpile chocolate crumb for production, the large silos at the factory have been given other duties: one has been demolished, one is being turned into a water recycling facility for the factory, and the third has been turned into a giant chocolate waterfall. Yes, a waterfall! Apparently, one of the board members is fond of the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and after reading how Willy Wonka mixed his chocolate by waterfall, decided Cadbury needed to have one, too. This one is strictly for show, but what a show it is: standing at the very top of the silo, we chanted, "One, two, three, chocolate!", the tour guide pushed a button, and one tonne of chocolate poured down from a storage container in the ceiling, splashing with a deafening roar into a vat below. It took the tonne twenty-three seconds to fall, during which those of us standing too close to the railings were splattered with warm, gooey chocolate. That being said, we didn't exactly want to lick it off; the same chocolate is pumped back up to the storage container, and falls again and again for every tour group. Once a year, the whole thing is drained, cleaned, and a new tonne of chocolate made by the factory to service the waterfall for the next twelve months.

Cadbury World consists of several rooms of displays detailing the ingredients, origins, and some of the lore surrounding chocolate (i.e. that it is an aphrodisiac). In a mock jungle set-up room they had roasted cocoa beans for us to try cracking open and tasting; I definitely wouldn't eat one of those and think that it could be turned into delicious chocolate, as I found it very waxy and bitter. We were a little rushed through the display rooms, as our tour started just after 9am, but my favourite part was the animatronic puppet displays, which made me think of Tim Burton's movie adaptation of Roald Dahl's books.

For the tour itself we had to don very attractive hairnets, and remove all of our jewelery and watches (no explanation was given; I'm assuming it's just standard practise for a food manufacturing plant). We were also forbidden to take pictures inside the factory itself, which didn't surprise me. What did surprise me was how warm it was on the operating floors; to keep the chocolate in a liquid form, steam heat is used, and the room temperature was around 35°C, with a high humidity. I also liked seeing the maze of pipes that send different types of chocolate all over the factory; each type is colour-coded into its own pipe, be it white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, etc. It was fun to think that flowing over our heads was rich, creamy deliciousness! I also liked how so many of the machines were labeled (sometimes it seemed almost to the point of redundancy); it reminded me of the batcave circa the 1960's TV show.

I didn't realise how much of the factory would still involve human assembly; while the Dunedin factory did fully automate a few assembly lines two years ago, we witnessed some of their Easter candy production that was being done by hand: workers were hand-gluing chocolate buttons (using chocolate glue, of course) to the fronts of chocolate bunnies, and packaging them with easter eggs before sending them on down the conveyor belt.

In the end, the tour was a lot of fun; we got to see several floors of the factory, watch several short DVD presentations on how the chocolate was manufactured and assembled into different products, and got a bunch of free samples from our tour guide ("Trick or Treat!" I called out every time she dropped something into my goody bag).

My other main excitement today was driving the Nissan rental car by myself from Dunedin to Ashburton; my mom and dad took the new Toyota Camry that we rented here in Dunedin, and then I drove the Nissan so we could return it to the rental dealership in Ashburton before continuing on to Kaikoura. My mom was pretty nervous about me driving by myself, but I had a great time; I put on the radio, turned on the A/C (there's a lot of dust blowing around, so opening the windows wasn't really feasible), and enjoyed the three hours or so of solitude. Driving on the left doesn't bother me; what did bother me was the very strong westerly winds plaguing the Otago and South Canterbury regions today... I was nearly blown into opposing traffic several times.

Tensions were running high in the car by later this afternoon; all three of us now in the Toyota, we were slowly crawling our way through the outskirts of Christchurch, which (understandably) are still congested and generally not a very fun place to be. I can tell my mom is getting tired of being away from home already; she gets cranky, and when my dad and I are tired from driving our fuses are fairly short (not to mention my mom and dad have been having trouble adjusting to the traffic flow and signage around here; I'm used to the traffic flow and think the signage is more than adequate, but they've been getting confused). My mom also hates two-lane roundabouts, finding them horribly confusing.

By the time we got into Kaikoura at 7:30pm, we were all tired and hungry. We checked into the Pier Hotel (which is quite a funky old building; all accommodation is above the restaurant and bar), my mom went to have a shower, and my dad and I went in search of fish and chips. Unfortunately, Cooper's Catch closed just as we pulled up in the car, but we ended up eating at the hotel restaurant instead, which was tasty and delicious, so everything worked out (my mom even perked up after eating a green salad... I think she was missing fresh vegetables).

Tomorrow we are driving from Kaikoura to Nelson... I'm getting tired of driving, but at least after this we will have several days to relax in the beautiful northern end of the South Island. Goodnight!


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