The sweet taste of chocolate appeals to most, whether it be dark, milk or white, but that beloved homemade taste can get lost when chocolate is mass produced. Here in the region, the authenticity of handmade chocolate treats is still cooking with Lorah’s Handmade Chocolates located at 611 Alleghenyville Rd., Mohnton.
Ruth Lorah started selling Lorah’s Handmade Chocolate in 1970 in Denver, Pa, where she began a family run business. Today marks the fifth anniversary of when Lorah’s great-niece, Maria Harvey, took over as the hands behind the homemade chocolate.
At Lorah’s Handmade Chocolates, Harvey uses real chocolate, that doesn’t run through a machine. “The chocolate snaps when you bite it,” she said with pride about the quality of the sweets.
“I learned the trade from ...to make sure things were being done correctly,” Harvey gives credit to her 90-year-old Pennsylvania Dutch aunt who started the business. “She still gets her chocolate every 2 - 3 weeks.”
Harvey said she has not changed any of her great-aunt’s recipes, but has added a “healthy line” which contains no additional sugar. The “healthy line” has options of nuts and dried fruit coated in the hand-dipped chocolate.
There are over 40 different types of delicious chocolate treats made by Lorah’s. Harvey said the most popular sellers are butter cream, peanut butter, peppermint, caramel and coconut. “Every single piece is hand coated,” Harvey said, “It’s all done by hand.” Customers have been purchasing the chocolate since 1970, and have invited the sweet treats into their homes as part of their family holiday traditions. The busiest season is over the winter holiday. Harvey starts to make candies for Christmas in August.
Harvey has corporate accounts and standing orders every year. “We ship chocolate to California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, New York, Indiana... a lot of states,” she said about the national range of the chocolate consumers.
“It keeps me busy...there is no break or downtime ” Harvey stated. Summer is a slower season for Lorah’s Handmade Chocolate. During the summer months, Harvey uses the relaxed business season to regroup and reorganize the previous garage which has been converted to the chocolate kitchen. “I want to make everything more efficient,” she said. “To be this close is really exciting. I had it envisioned for a long time.” This year, she has installed a new floor, and island, with new cabinets soon to come.
Renovations are important because Harvey only has a small 600 sq.ft. area to work within and makes the best with what she has. The temperature and humidity of the kitchen and store of Lorah’s Chocolates needs to be maintained to keep the chocolate.
“I really do enjoy making it,” she said the satisfaction is when someone tastes it. “Having a hand coated chocolate piece tastes better,” she said with certainty. To make the chocolate, Harvey adds whole milk, heavy cream and sugar. The combination is poured on a marble slab to mix it, which then becomes the consistency of taffy. “It plays with the chemistry of the sugar...going from a liquid to a solid, the chocolate takes a different form.” It then becomes fudgey, which Harvey movies it side by side on the table, breaks it off, and smashes it by hand. The mixture then has to cool, which takes longer in the summer. “I put ice packs on the table to cool the marble table,” which makes the chocolate easier to form.
“I do a demo. every five weeks, or so,” said Harvey, who is looking at reaching out to more retirement homes in the area. Harvey usually takes her antique cream cutter and peanut butter flavor to the demos. “The bulk of business are people over 70.” Harvey said she has had a lot of fun doing chocolate making demonstrations lately. “I like being out and doing shows...The chocolate appeals to older people, that’s what they’re used to.” Harvey is hoping to draw a chocolate following with the younger generations, as well.
One pound of chocolate is around 35 pieces, but each box varies different as every piece is hand dipped and unique.
“There is really nobody in the area making candy at the scale we do,” said Harvey. To order your box of homemade local chocolates and start a tradition in your family, call Lorah’s at 717-917-7006.