A chocolate romance

  • 2012-04-04
  • By Emily Kernot

SOUND OF SUCCESS: Laima production manager Liga Broza oversees every stage of the “Serenade” chocolate making process.

RIGA - I envy people living opposite 22 Miera Street. It’s the street with the most glorious scent in Riga, because there, the Laima chocolate factory is located. Within a 500 meter radius you encounter the aroma of roasted cocoa beans affecting the air. It permeates everything like a quality perfume.

Chocolate has long been considered the language of love, and the Laima company has its own story, which started on factory premises and lasts to this day. A young and talented apprentice was smitten and wanted to show affection to his sweetheart in a unique way. He created a chocolate, combining apricots and hazelnuts with “a touch of magic” and named it “Serenade” - a love song for the palate. That was in 1937 and the recipe remains unchanged to this day. Celebrating 75 years, “Serenade” is Laima’s favorite product among consumers, evidenced by the factory having to make 13,000 tons of the bite-size treats every month.

“It shows the power of this classic brand,” Laima brand manager Jelena Resetnikova said. “It lives a life of its own. It is like a fairy tale.”
At the factory everything is done from scratch. The cocoa beans, imported from Ghana, Africa, are sorted, roasted, shelled, ground into a paste then heated to extract the cocoa butter, delivering the distinctive Laima taste.

Making “Serenade” is a lot like writing a song: the verses being the mixing, cutting and chocolate coating, the chorus its times being cooled at specific stages. The blend of sticky apricot and hazelnut goodness is first placed on a long conveyer belt and smoothed into a rectangular slab. From here it flows into the initial cooling chamber. These are set at an optimal temperature ranging between 8 - 10 degrees, helping the mixture solidify. Upon exit the mass is cut into portions and separated. Smooth lines, no rough edges are part of the quality control, readying the interior mixture for its chocolate jacket. Rollers underneath the candy help coat the bottom while the top and sides are anointed from above.

From here the “Serenade” enters the second refrigeration chamber, awaiting the final packaging. A machine twists the recognizable royal blue wrapper around the completed bonbons at a rate of 442 per minute.
A limited number of people know the “Serenade” recipe, which is “very much a secret.”
“It is really unique. There are no other candies like it,” Jelena said. It’s why they have such tight security at the factory entrance.

Towards the end of the year Laima will celebrate “Serenade’s birthday,” but aren’t giving any clues as to what form that will take. Most recently the brand branched out into ice cream, which has proved popular among fans. When asked if there was the possibility “Serenade” could be made into a block, the response was, “…maybe, at some stage.”
Another development happening at Laima’s premises is The Chocolate Room. Jelena said there has been a lot of interest in the project from people who have been on Laima tours before. Aimed to be completed by December 2012, it’s an area inside the factory where visitors can come and experience the chocolate making process for themselves. It is aimed to be an interactive time of seeing, smelling, touching and, of course, tasting – it’s about learning how chocolate is created from beginning to end, beans to butter.

Guests are sure to leave with their senses having been satisfied. However, according to Laima production manager Liga Broza, after a week of working at the factory employees no longer notice the smell. She said when most workers leave after their shift they “go home and want to eat something salty.”