Enter the World of the Imagination

The Butlers Chocolate Factory Tour

By Niamh Byrne

For all you chocolate lovers out there, the Butlers Chocolate Factory Tour is the place for you. Embark on a journey of chocolate tasting, facts about Irish chocolate history and get to design your very own chocolate! If you’re looking for something fun to do with the family or friends, especially around Easter (which is early this year, right after Paddy’s Day), this is the perfect place for a laugh and to bring people together.

Chez Nous

Before beginning the tour the staff will hand out white lab coats for everyone to wear. This is really so your clothes don’t get full of chocolate, but adds to the fun of the experience! Everyone is brought into a small cinema-like room where you get to watch clips of where the chocolate comes from, etc. You are then moved into a museum-type room full of facts about Irish chocolate.

In 1932, a woman named Marion Butler set up a confectionery business, all made by hand, in Baggot Street. Back then it was rare for a woman to set up a business but Marion was one of a kind. She was born in India in 1889, where her Irish father was stationed as a colonel in the Indian staff corps, but was to return to her parents’ homeland, where she married and raised five children, before embarking on a massive journey into the world of commerce. Although the 1922 Irish Free State constitution had granted women the same rights as men (the right to vote, equal rights and opportunities), the reality was the new government still wanted to confine women to a certain role. The wages for females were scarce compared to men and most businesses operated a ‘marriage bar’. This meant women had to resign if they decided to get married. However, Marion wasn’t fazed by this and went ahead with her confectionary business and before long her products were in great demand.

Butlers Chocolate Cafés first opened on a prominent Wicklow Street corner in Dublin in 1998. Butlers chocolates could now be bought in their own unique way where their customers could choose from a variety of luxurious chocolates made by their baristas to go with their coffee.

Their signature hot chocolate drink was also made at this time. The unique hot chocolate drink is made using a luscious cream-based chocolate truffle sauce. Since then more Butlers cafes have opened throughout Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

The chocolate cafe concept successfully flourished internationally too, first in New Zealand in 2006, then Pakistan in 2009, and the United Emirates in 2012. The chocolates are now exported to more than 30 countries and are also available on their website butlerschocolates.com.

In the mid-eighties, a quarter century after James Sorenson acquired the business (1959), the company was rebranded and Chez Nous Chocolates (Marion’s name) officially became Butlers Irish, and then Butlers Chocolates. Marion Butler finally got her wishes and her name appeared on every box of chocolates rapidly produced.

Chocolate Elephants

The company moved to larger premises in 1986 from Lad lane to Pearse Street. Three years later they opened their first shop on Grafton Street.

With their continued modernisation and success, it led to yet another relocation to a custom built factory on Sir John Rogerson’s quay on the banks of the liffey. A further expansion brought the factory to Clonshaugh in 2004, where it still resides, and where every Butlers chocolate is made. It is also the only Butlers chocolate factory in the world making it extra unique!

Among the ‘facts room’ are some interactive pieces such as a height ladder where you can measure yourself in comparison to stacked cocoa pods. This is a great photo opportunity and is fun for the whole family.

The next stop on the tour we see the room where the magic happens. Looking down glass panels you get to see the Butlers staff hard at work. Here we get to see what the staff do throughout their day and how the chocolates are made. Some staff would layer each box of chocolates moving at a fast pace while the conveyor belt kept moving, whilst others would transport the chocolates into the boxes. The chocolates are wrapped by huge machines working at a very high speed.

Last but definitely not least, you get to decorate your own piece of chocolate! You are brought into a room and seated at a table with an animal shaped chocolate piece in front of you. For our tour, our tour guide chose a chocolate elephant for us to decorate. The elephant was chosen as a nod to Marion Butler’s Indian heritage. A bowl of white chocolate is given to each table and you get to colour your chocolate Elephant any way you want! Music from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is played while you decorate which really gives you the feeling you’re actually in a movie. The good news is you also get to bring it home with you!

This concluded the tour which lasted one and a half hours. Tickets to go on this tour are €16.95 for adults and completely free for children under three! It is a tour I would definitely recommend and is truly a world of pure imagination.