Behind the Scenes with Anne of Green Gables Chocolates
When I enter the Anne of Green Gables Chocolate Store, I am greeted by a young woman clad in bonnet, white apron and crinoline under her skirt, looking very much like a choir girl from the cast of Anne of Green Gables, The Musical. Soft spoken Sarah answers all my questions, including, “What does Anne of Green Gables have to do with chocolate?” She regales me with LM Montgomery’s stories, including one where Anne Shirley dreams she could have just one more “little sweetie”.
This story has inspired a lot more than just the brown sugar fudge (dipped in chocolate) that served as Anne’s original sweetie. A large display case boasts beautifully presented plates of chocolates sold individually, and the shelves here are stacked with shiny boxed offerings, jars of colorful candy, tea, jam, and other Island products: Honibe honey drops, COWS cheeses & butters, Island blueberry juice, and more.
The back wall is glass, inviting the public to melt into the chocolate making process, and soon Mary Ellen Gallant, head chocolatier of Anne of Green Gables Chocolates, comes out to greet me and to take me behind the scenes and into the kitchen. The fragrant chocolate fills my lungs and I breathe in deeply, slipping away for a moment in aromatic wonder.
Mary Ellen has worked for owner Scott Linkletter for over twenty-five years, first for COWS, then helping to shape their sister company, Anne of Green Gables Chocolates. She recalls their modest opening in March 1999, when Anne of GG Chocolates first made their debut in Avonlea Village, complete with Gilbert’s Toffee and Marilla’s truffles. We talk of expansion, exploration and appreciation, from 1,300 square feet in ’99 to over 7,000 now, in 2015.
“We’ve made our mark after sixteen years,” Gallant says, “Islanders appreciate a finer quality chocolate.”
I approach a large table with dozens of boxes of chocolate covered chips wrapped in cellophane and curling ribbons. Anne of Green Gables Chocolates is open all year, preparing orders for export to China and other international destinations, while keeping the community’s chocolate cravings pacified through conferences, weddings, and events. I waft through the kitchen like the smell of butter cream, peeking into tall trays of truffles and peanut butter filled cups.
By far the biggest seller is the Cows Chocolate Covered Potato Chips. Keeping the chip orders filled is a full time job, and chocolate covered chipmaker Holly is busy at work. She opens a large bag of salted chips, places them on a long conveyor belt, where they head under a chocolate waterfall and over to a drying rack, leaving the perfectly desired combination of sweet, salty crunch prepared and ready to go. Holly explains it’s nonstop in the summer, and even on the weekends they have to have staff in to run the chipper for two full 8-hour shifts. As she talks, I have to stop myself from sneaking them off the belt, and I ask Holly how she manages the temptations to do the same. She replies, “After five years, there is no more munching.”
I churn through the interview, managing to keep controls of my fingers, and drizzle over to the chocolate cook, Blair, who is about to pour a large batch of chocolate truffles onto the stainless steel table that awaits. Blair chats with me while testing the large vat of chocolate with a large thermometer and shakes his head in apology, “Two more degrees, before I can pour.” Making chocolate is not just about using the finest quality Island products, like ADL butter and creams, but about the precision of the operation: temperatures, tools, and timing. Today, Blair is making the insides for truffles, and when it’s dried, he’ll cut it into 1,500 pieces with a roller cutter.
Although I could stay all day, I’m suddenly desperate to get out to that chocolate counter, to fill tiny boxes full of samplings for my family, sea salt caramel bites and almond toffee crunch.
Wouldn’t Anne be delighted to see what her thoughts had inspired? L.M. Montgomery once wrote of Anne Shirley: “I love to smell flowers in the dark,” she said. “You get hold of their soul then.”
The same could be said of chocolate.