Fictional candy maker Willy Wonka famously said the only way to make chocolate just right is churning it by waterfall. Evansville’s own chocolatier Stephen Libs Finer Chocolates may not boast a waterfall and oompa loompas, but the family-owned company certainly has a claim on quality chocolates.
The shop, located at 6225 Vogel Road, showcases a storefront that would put Wonka to shame. Shelves lined with assorted chocolate boxes, caramel pecan supremes, crèmes, roasted nuts, chocolate-covered fruits, seasonal and special occasion treats, and more present a chocolate lover’s dream.
But it is behind the counters, down a small hallway, and in the back of the building where the true magic lies. Employees line along machines and countertops, monitoring as treats are coated in milk, dark, or white chocolate before they are decorated, cooled, and then placed in inventory boxes ready for packaging.
“Depending on what we’re making, I would guess we produce anywhere around 200 to 300 pounds of chocolate a day,” says owner Stephen Libs.
He and his wife Marjorie started their little chocolate factory in 1985. Stephen was taught the art of chocolate-making from his father Robert P. Libs, who brought the unique Libs technique to Evansville from Eureka, California, in 1950. The secret to the high-quality chocolate is not in the recipe, says Stephen, but in the process.
“You can give a recipe to different people and the same recipe turns out differently,” he says. “We just have our own technique and try to follow that.”
The freshest and highest quality ingredients are a part of that, Stephen adds.
“You can’t take low quality and turn it into high. You have to start with good stuff to end up with good stuff,” he says.
Each night, Libs employees cover their chocolate pots and turn the temperature up. In the morning, they will cool the chocolate and temper it properly. Tempering helps create a smooth, glossy chocolate by getting the cocoa butter to the right consistency. Once the chocolate is tempered correctly, it’s ready to pour over nuts, caramels, creams, fruit, peanut butter, and other treats offered at Stephen Libs.
“It’s a very great place to work,” says Brenda Stone, who has packaged chocolates at the company for more than 10 years. “There’s a happy family atmosphere here.”
For more information on Stephen Libs Finer Chocolates, call 812-473-0048 or visit stephenlibschocolates.com.