It’s not-too-far-off, I think, for how a lot of us view chocolate. But … shrug … why would you bother to stop and visit a random chocolate shop at Disney Springs when Goofy’s Candy Company is so nearby?
Because in a Disney Springs that’s packed with outside vendors and non-Disney concepts, The Ganachery is 100% pure Disney. As such, it has a rich and fascinating backstory, modeled after late 19th- and early 20th-century apothecary, and here, chocolate really is a medicinal balm for the mind, heart and soul.
The ceiling is adorned by a one-of-a-kind chandelier made of copper chocolate-melting pots. The floors are clad in beautiful tiles. The shelves are full of the tools of a chemist, which turn out to be very similar to the tools of a chocolatier, as well as medicine-style bottles of flavor extracts and unmarked bottles mixed by the store’s “druggist and stationer,” a reference to the fact that most pharmacists began selling stationary (literally, paper goods) in the early 1900s, giving us a temporal setting.
In keeping with the theme, crunchy chocolate pearls are sold in high-end test tubes ($5 each), and their labels, boxes and bags have clean designs that are modern while calling back to early 20th-century patent-type medicine labels and ads.
One long wall of the shop is clear glass, allowing guests to watch the small, stainless steel show kitchen where Disney chocolatier Amanda E. Lauder and her team make the delicious chocolate confections. The process is sort of mesmerizing, and while we were shopping, families came in and out, watching for a few moments before moving on—it’s worth a visit, even if you aren’t a chocolate-person. (Note: The shop is very … cozy … and it’s only fire-rated for 10-20 people, so it can get a little crowded if you visit during a high-traffic time.)
Because this is a Disney-concept store, a lot of the chocolate celebrates The Mouse. And, yea, there’s the obligatory chocolate character pops ($5 each), the kind of mass-market items you’ll find in Big Top Treats or the Main Street Confectionery, but there are also nine pre-packaged bars (3 oz. for $8 each) that are smartly concepted and more interestingly flavored. For example, Goofy’s dark chocolate bar is loaded with poprocks, which is so fitting for my adventurous-if-daffy Fab Five favorite. And Donald Duck’s eponymous bar is white chocolate with blueberries and habanero chili—sweet with little kick, like our favorite fowl. The WDW bar is dark chocolate infused with the flavor of Florida oranges, befitting its home, while the Aulani bar is white chocolate with coconut and pineapple. Mmm …
The high quality treats—and the real reason we’re here—are the handmade ganache squares: one-inch flavor-filled pockets of smooth, creamy fair trade chocolate, neatly arranged under the glass of the counter. There are 16 options, and you can buy them by singly for $3 each or in self-curated boxes of six for $15, nine for $21 or 12 for $27. And fear not: You can sample the wares before you make a purchase.
Selecting your “medicine” is a ritual that is just fussy enough to feel truly special, as a Cast Member carefully tucks the beautiful gems into an exquisitely-designed box and then dresses it up with upscale bibs and bobs. Dan and I spent a good bit of time chatting with the Cast Member behind the counter about how the chocolate is made, and we had a difficult time deciding on just six of these exquisite gems and an even harder time removing them from the box (it seemed like such a shame to take apart something to beautiful!).
We were visiting Disney Springs with Dan’s mother, and she wanted a Ghirardelli sundae, so we took our chocolate on a little stroll around Lake Buena Vista. As she tucked into a huge ice creamy treat, Dan and I carefully unwrapped our box of chocolate and revisited our selections with the provided flavor chart. A note here: The packaging really is lovely and high-end—each of the boxes contains a set of magnets, ensuring that the sweet treats stay right where they’re supposed to.
We ended up selecting Dark Chocolate Mango Curry, Dark Chocolate Matcha Yuzu, Dark Chocolate Vanilla Bean, Dark Chocolate Pistachio, Milk Chocolate Espresso and Dark Chocolate Orange. The flavors couldn’t have been more different, but the common thread was how creamy they all were. The fruit and spice flavors were strong and clear, but they didn’t compete with the flavor of the chocolate. I think my favorites were the espresso and pistachio, while Dan preferred mango curry, an incredible balance between two flavors that shouldn’t go together but do.
These chocolates are meant to be enjoyed one at a time without chewing, allowing the flavors to fully mature and blossom as they melt on your tongue. At Ghirardelli, we tasted the Yuzu and Pistachio flavors, and we saved the rest for later.
The overall experience is individually personalized and extremely high-end. This isn’t mass market Disney, and it has a price tag to match. That said, I’d definitely visit again, especially in the “cooler” months of the year, when it feels more appropriate to nosh on chocolate, and definitely when traveling with a chocolate-loving companion. The chocolates are a delight, and the experience was top notch without being silly.
Will you give this new concept a try? Let us know in the comments below!